N.Y.ers: Lower Lid On Income
2 out of 3 favor cut, poll sez

Daily News Staff Writer

Nearly two out of three New Yorkers back sharply cutting the $250,000 income eligibility limit for state rent protections, according to an exclusive Daily News-Eyewitness News 7 poll.

On average, New Yorkers said households earning more than about $78,000 a year should no longer qualify for state limits on rent hikes.

But the poll also showed city residents overwhelmingly oppose calls to end rent protections as tenants move out of their apartments or die. In all, 63% of New Yorkers oppose vacancy decontrol.

The results show New Yorkers support "a little tinkering" with state rent laws, "but that's it," said ABC News polling director Jeff Alderman, who oversaw the survey.

"They don't think rich people ù or people with relatively high incomes ù ought to be able to get this," he said.

The findings came amid a bitter war that threatens elimination of state rent protections for more than 2 million New Yorkers in 10 days.

Gov. Pataki and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) are battling for decontrol and lower income limits. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) wants to keep the current laws.

The most surprising poll finding was the broad support for lower income limits. The new ceiling cited by New Yorkers ù household income of $77,793 a year -- is far lower than the $175,000 limit proposed by Pataki and the $125,000 called for by Bruno.

Under current state law, tenants who earn more than $250,000 annually for two consecutive years lose rent protections, but only if their unit costs at least $2,000 a month.

While 61% of those surveyed said they favor scrapping the limits on rent hikes for tenants earning more than a certain amount, 34% oppose a mandatory means test.

Overall, the poll found that 43% of city residents back keeping the state's rent protections intact. Another 36% favor some changes, 11% want the laws phased out and 6% support an immediate end.

Each side in the rent war tried to interpret the poll results to its own advantage.

"This poll indicates that a majority of New Yorkers agree with the governor that the rent control laws must be changed and phased out over time," said Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon.
Bruno spokesman John McArdle said the poll showed "strong support for ending rent control as we know it." But Silver spokeswoman Pat Lynch said the survey supported warnings that vacancy decontrol could spur landlord "harassment and eviction."

Landlord advocate Dan Margulies said the support for a lower income ceiling shows the levels proposed by Pataki and Bruno are "laughable." Tenant leader Michael McKee said the overall findings show lack of support for decontrol.