Albany Set to Vote on New Rent Deal

New York 1 Cable, June 17, 1997

The State Senate and Assembly could approve an agreement as early as today keeping rent protections.

The bill will be in effect for only six years, but Governor Pataki expects it to last longer than that. Pataki says, "If I were to predict, I'd say this system is working very well. Tenants are protected. We have moved to market levels for those tenants who voluntarily chose to leave, we are seeing new investment, new construction, and that has always been the case with this law. It wouldn't surprise me if within the six-year period we would hit a 5% vacancy rate and the whole question becomes moot. So I think it is an opportunity here for us to be in a position for dramatic change in the future."

The Governor adds the deal was not reached for political purposes, but because everyone agreed it was best for New Yorkers. He says, "The extremists on both sides are going to be unhappy. Those who believe that you should never have had any change are going to say, ĎOh my goodness - look at the change they've accomplished.í Those who've said we should get rid of the system and throw the tenants out on the street are going to be unhappy because we're not doing that. But I think the vast majority of New Yorkers are going to look at this and say this does protect tenants, and yet it changes the system in a way that for 50 years itís needed changes. So we'll have greater housing opportunity, and more competition in the market while protecting 99% of the tenants, and I think the overwhelming number of New Yorkers are going to say this is not a win for the politicians but the right thing for the city, the right thing for the state, and we can go forward together with a tremendous amount of confidence."

For more reaction on the rent deal, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will be on "The Road to City Hall" at 6:30 and 9:00 tonight on New York 1.

Meantime, a handful of tenant advocates headed to Albany this morning to rally outside the Governor's Mansion. The group planned the trip before last night's compromise was reached, and while some still planned to picket, not everyone had an unfavorable opinion of the deal.

Jennifer St. John, of the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, says, "It was a victory. I mean, yes, we took some hits, there were some concessions...but overall itís absolutely a victory compared to what would happen if vacancy decontrol was enacted - which would eliminate rent protection."

Michael Burns, a tenant advocate, says, "I'll tell you who lost - the Republican Party. A fellow like myself who votes Republican each time, every time, all the time will never, never, never vote Republican in this city or state again."

And tenant advocate Tom Kappner adds, "I think, over time, more and more housing units will be taken off rent regulation, and the end result in a matter of 10 to 20 years is going to be destruction of the mixed neighborhoods that we have."

Technically, rent laws have expired...but their expiration has little immediate impact. Most tenants in rent stabilized apartments are protected until their current leases run out, and under lease renewal laws, they would not face any rent hikes or evictions until the fall. But the agreement reached in Albany is expected to be approved by the state legislature later today.