Golf for the Guv As Deadline Near
Pataki hits links with `decontrol architect'

by By Craig Gordon. ALBANY BUREAU.
Dan Janison, Ellen Yan and Lynn Brezosky contributed to this story.
Newsday, June 11, 1997
Albany - With both sides far apart as Sunday's rent regulation deadline approaches, Gov. George Pataki is scheduled to spend today at a $2,500-a-head Long Island golf fund raiser hosted by a man Democrats charge knows a lot about phasing out rent laws.

Pataki is scheduled to attend the Governor's Cup golf outing at Meadow Brook Golf Club in Jericho, which is being sponsored by an arm of the state Republican committee headed by a former state housing commissioner, Charles Urstadt.

Democrats say that Urstadt, who they call the "architect of vacancy decontrol," was instrumental in the state's previous attempt to phase out rent control in 1971.

"If anyone had any doubts about Governor Pataki being in the pocket of the landlords, this should put those doubts to rest," said state Democratic Chairwoman Judith Hope.

Pataki has said he supports vacancy decontrol to resolve the debate over rent laws that affect about 1.1 million regulated apartments in New York City and the suburbs. Under vacancy decontrol, the limits on rent charged for an apartment are lifted after the tenant or their relatives move out, a program Pataki charges would protect all but a few current tenants.

Pataki, however, countered that the Long Island outing wouldn't slow negotiations and that he would stay at a negotiating session with legislative leaders this morning as long as it takes to make progress.

But he dodged questions about the golf fund raiser or Urstadt's position by reiterating his reasons for proposing vacancy decontrol. "It protects virtually every tenant," he said. "The only reason we have advanced it is I think it's right."

Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) met for almost an hour yesterday, but departed without any progress on rent regulations and pointed fingers at each other as the reason why.

Rent-control negotiations have barely budged, and won't have much chance to pick up steam this week either, even as the deadline looms.

Silver said he would be unavailable from late today to late Thursday because of a religious observance, and again from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

Bruno said he would not support extending the deadline on a short-term or long-term basis, even if the governor, a fellow Republican, wants to do so.

Meanwhile, one of the state's most powerful Republicans, Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), also made it clear that he doesn't expect to get involved. "I think it would be presumptuous on my part to attempt to assert myself or to suggest that they're not capable of coming to a decision," he said in nearby Troy, where he had gone to give a grant to refurbish a YWCA building.

With a tenants rally going on outside City Hall in Manhattan, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that the city is putting together a task force to let tenants know about their rights if vacancy decontrol is implemented, which he continued to call "unacceptable."

The city task force will include the police department, the Consumer Affairs department, the Corporation Counsel's office and the Housing Preservation and Development department.

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone said he held out hope that the issue could be resolved before the current law expires. "It never came into my mind that the governor would allow this to take place . . . There's time to stop a crisis that never should have happened in the first place."