Greedy Landlords Will Bring Down Pol

Daily News, June 12, 1997
If it's really just between Joe Bruno and Shelly Silver, why don't we abolish the state Legislature and let the pair of them flip a coin or choose their weapons?

I say "if," these guys don't even say maybe. They neither assert nor deny they just take it for granted that we take it for granted that Bruno rules the Senate and Silver rules the Assembly.

And we do take it for granted, the "we" being the media, who question everything but the right of two men to determine the rent laws of New York City. And what the media say, the public accepts, when it comes to who runs Albany.

But if there is anything healthy about the debate over rent controls, it's that it has exposed our elected senators and assemblymen as nothing more than rubber stamps for leaders they not we, the voters elected.

In the case of Joe Bruno, the word is "selected," because Gov. Pataki simply helicoptered him into the majority leadership after the former leader, Ralph Marino, played too much footsie with Mario Cuomo in the 1994 gubernatorial election.

Bruno was made with the aid of Alfonse D'Amato, who made Pataki. If the rents are allowed to expire Sunday night, the big losers apart from 2 million New York City tenants will be Al and George. D'Amato has enough tsuris without this, and Pataki has already lost 10 points in the polls because city tenants blame him for Bruno.

"It's the third rail," one of Pataki's handlers told me yesterday. "George appointed Bruno, but if he dumps him he loses big-time upstate. You'd think Bruno would let him off the hook out of appreciation, but it hasn't happened yet, and it may not happen."

The realists say it will happen, that Pataki and D'Amato will in the end pressure Bruno into a deal something like this: vacancy decontrol for people with incomes of $200,000 and higher, and a rent hike for the others.

But the realists are no longer saying it will happen by Sunday midnight they tell me it will run over the deadline, until Pataki and D'Amato can gauge the public reaction.

You don't have to be Charles Dickens to read the streets of New York if Bruno and Silver allow the rent laws to go down the drain. The boys at the Brooks Club and the Links and even the media mavens at the Century Association better head for the Hamptons, they will be trying democracy a bridge too far.

Landlords are wonderful at public relations. People who collect garbage are "sanitation workers," but people who own buildings still call themselves landlords terrific.

They argue that if rent stabilization goes, they will build again. Well, the rent laws don't apply to new buildings, the sky is the limit on what you can charge. The landlords say that in the long run, more apartments will be available under decontrol, and the competition for them will result in more building. But in the long run, we're all dead.

New Yorkers give more money to the nation and to the upstate burghers than ever they can recoup, forget about it. The one deal they got is the rent deal, and they are not about to go quiet into the landlord night.

Does anybody know a landlord who can't pay the rent? At my first funeral, age 6, my Aunt Geshka took my Great-Aunt Moomie to a gravestone. Moomie was 100 and blind and needed to relieve herself.

"It's cold, Geshka," she said. "Don't worry, Moomie, it's the ladies' room," said Geshka.

When it was done, Geshka proudly announced: "I said I'd do it one day on my landlord's grave."

Al D'Amato's mother would kvell. I don't know about George Pataki's mom, but I suspect a smile.

Whatever, if Joe and Shelly go the bad route here, they will discover just how cold the grave.