Seniors Keep Pataki On Short Lease

Daily News, June 3, 1997

Gov. Pataki came under fire from Brooklyn senior citizens yesterday as he tried to drum up support for his plan to end state rent protections as tenants move out of their apartments or die.

Anxious seniors at the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults hit Pataki with a barrage of tough questions when he tried to sell his compromise for ending the deadlock that threatens a June 15 expiration of rent laws covering more than 2 million tenants.

Alex Staber, a resident of Millwood drew cheers from the crowd of about 100 when he warned that seniors could wind up with no protections under Pataki's vacancy decontrol plan.

"I don't think you've been honest with the people," Staber shouted.

Pataki, who said he was "fighting to try to improve the rent control laws," insisted his plan would preserve all existing protections for seniors.

The governor also said his plan includes "the toughest laws in America" against harassment so owners won't hound seniors and other tenants out of homes to make room for new renters paying higher market rents.

Pataki predicted that vacancy decontrol would spark a surge in construction of affordable housing.

"We think it's a fair and balanced approach that would protect you," he said.

But Mary Breen, 66, said she feared that grown children could not move out of their parents' homes if all vacant apartments rented at full market prices.

"No one's going to be able to afford it," she told Pataki.

The state Assembly has approved renewal of the laws. But Pataki and state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) are pushing for vacancy decontrol. Without a compromise, the protections will run out in 12 days.

Mayor Giuliani, who backs renewal of the current laws, traveled to Albany yesterday to urge state leaders to compromise. He asked them to consider deregulating newly vacant apartments that rent for at least $1,750, down from the current level of $2,000, Silver said.

That represents a modification of Pataki's plan, which would deregulate all vacant apartments.

"The governor has to decide when he wants to actually step in and resolve this," Giuliani said. "The sooner he does, the better."

Pataki hopes to host a one-hour forum on rent regulation tonight on the New York 1 cable television station. But tenant leaders have refused to participate, accusing Pataki of stacking the panel in favor of landlords.

Steve Paulus, vice president of news at New York 1, said the station will not televise the forum unless it's a balanced presentation.