Rent Law Jury Is Still Out/Rudy blasted for not doing enough to help tenants

by Dan Morrison
Newsday, June 14, 1997
As New Yorkers held their breaths and waited to see if their rent protections would survive the weekend, a major tenant organizer blasted Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for not doing enough on behalf of frightened tenants.

Michael McKee, campaign director for the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, a 24-year-old housing group, said Friday that Giuliani was shirking his duty to speak on behalf of apartment dwellers whose rents could jump if the Republican-controlled State Senate allows rent stabilization laws to expire on Sunday.

"Let him get on his bully pulpit and insist that the members of his party back off on trashing the rent laws," McKee said. "Look what he did with the United Nations and parking tickets. Why doesn't he do that on behalf of tenants in New York City?"

On his Friday morning radio show, Giuliani unveiled three phone numbers that tenants could call for information on their rent status and to ask legal questions about landlord harassment.

At a morning news conference in which he received an endorsement from Democratic Councilman Howard Lasher (Brighton Beach/Coney Island), the mayor said, "I have done more than anyone in New York City to preserve tenants' rent stabilization," except State Assembly majority leader Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). Silver has so far blocked vacancy decontrol and wants the laws kept as they are.

Giuliani, who said he is against vacancy decontrol of rent stabilized apartments, declined to answer questions on the topic. Senate majority leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and Gov. George Pataki favor ending rent protections as tenants move out of their apartments or die.

While the city waited to see if Pataki, Bruno and Silver would reach an accord on the explosive rent issue, most of the 33 protesters arrested at a demonstration Thursday outside the governor's Manhattan office were released, said Frederica Jacks, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Four protestors were charged in court with misdemeanors including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and harassment, Jacks said. The rest were released Thursday night with desk appearance tickets.

McKee, whose group helped organize the protest, said the mayor was not using his influence to pressure Republican state senators like Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) to change their votes. Proponents of keeping the rent laws need one more Republican vote in the senate to carry the day.

"He should be demanding, hourly, in a public and visible fashion, that these senators stand up for tenants," McKee said. Rent control advocates will picket Maltese's Queens home Saturday at noon.

The hotline numbers for the mayor's rent stabilization interagency task force are: 212-487-5858, for general information and legal assistance; 212-487-6633, for landlord harassment, and 212-487-7010, for hearing-impaired callers. The numbers will operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, beginning 6 a.m. Saturday.

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