May 11, 1997

Statement from Governor George E. Pataki

Rent control has been part of the fabric of New York City for more than a half century. It has become an important part of life for the millions of New Yorkers who have relied on it.

Rent control has always been there for those New Yorkers and under my plan it will still be there for every senior citizen and every disabled person regardless of income and for 99 percent of all tenants. Only the top 1 percent of all tenants in rent regulated apartments, those individuals making more than $175,000 annually who can afford to pay market rates, will be asked to do so.

That's the right decision for New York City and the right decision for all of New York State. Those who seek to divide us as upstate against downstate must put an end to the divisive rhetoric and remember that what makes us great is our unity, not regional differences.

My plan to save rent control will ensure that every middle-class tenant has the right to remain in their apartment for the rest of their lives if they choose, protecting rent laws for about 99 percent of New York tenants.

Further, tenants must have greater protection from unscrupulous landlords who harass their tenants in an attempt to push them out of their apartments. My proposal will include stiff new civil and criminal penalties by creating the new crime of Tenant Harassment under the State penal law.

No tenant who needs rent control protection should be subjected to harassment from landlords who try to evict them simply to satisfy their own greed. This new crime will also protect honest property owners whose reputations suffer because of the practices of dishonest landlords.

My message to greedy landlords who ignore the law is clear: Harass your tenants and you will pay a price that far exceeds the few extra dollars you may collect from a rent increase.

New York's greatest strength is the millions of people who work hard every day, volunteer at community groups, churches or synagogues, and raise their children to be responsible citizens -- regardless of where they live in New York State.

I will continue to reject attempts by anyone who tries to divide us by region, who pits upstate against downstate, city against suburb. Our success as a State comes from working together, and just as surely, any continued effort to divide us can only drag down the entire State. I will not allow that to happen.