Tenants Are Ready To Put Up a Fight

By MICHAEL FINNEGAN
Daily News Staff Writer
William Rubero has rarely called in sick during 21 years working as a doorman on Manhattan's upper East Side.

But with state rent protections that cover his $500-a-month apartment in jeopardy, he rose at 6 a.m. yesterday, boarded a bus for the state Capitol and joined thousands of others at a rally demanding renewal of the laws.

"I don't like to call in sick," said Rubero, 51. "But this, I had to do."

Rubero said he fears how much his landlord might be able to charge for the two-bedroom apartment on Creston Ave. in the Bronx that he has called home since 1976.

On his salary of about $28,000 a year, it takes nearly two weeks of take-home pay to cover the month's rent.

"As it is, I hardly keep my head above water," Rubero said.

He'd like to find a new place, because his apartment overlooks the street and he can't stand the noise that teenagers make below his window on many nights.

"I can't move out because of the prices," Rubero said.

Donning a jacket and baseball cap, he joined friends from his parish, Our Lady of Refuge Church on E. 196th St. They boarded the bus on the Grand Concourse at 7:30 a.m. and sat in the back.

During the three-hour ride, the 35 passengers chatted, many in Spanish, about the rent fight. As the bus plowed northward, a tenant organizer passed out ham sandwiches, apples and soda for the long day of marching and lobbying.

The bus pulled alongside the state Capitol at 11 a.m. As the tenants got off, an organizer passed out pink caps that proclaimed: "I'm a tenant and I vote!"

Rubero and friends wandered into a sea of similar pink caps that dominated a lawn below a two-story staircase outside the Capitol.

There, they listened as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), the leader of the fight to renew rent laws, vowed not to compromise.

"No compromise!" Rubero hollered back.

After the speeches, Rubero and other Bronx tenants headed off to lobby state Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx) who is torn between support for tenants and his party's plan to lift rent protections as tenants move or die.

"A lot of people could be homeless if they go through with this," said John Irby, 49, before the meeting.