Gov: Protect seniors who switch to small apts

New York Post, May 17, 1997

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Pataki yesterday floated a plan that would allow rent-regulated senior citizens to trade in big apartments for smaller ones -- and still keep their rent protections.

"The governor is looking at giving the flexibility to both tenants and landlords to allow them to accommodate each other's needs -- if they can agree," said Pataki spokeswoman Zenia Mucha.

Seniors in large, rent-regulated apartments are often interested in moving into smaller units in their buildings but would be reluctant to do so if they lost rent protections, she said.

"This sounds like a common-sense approach, and it is something to explore. It remains to be seen if it's workable or not," Mucha said.

Pataki's proposal came as a surprise to the Legislature's leading opponent of rent controls, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who quickly rejected it.

"I don't have any idea what he is talking about. Move into a non-regulated apartment and regulate it? Things start to get ridiculous," said Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

"I have no intention of going backward in this struggle to end rent control as we know it."

Pataki entered the rent-control battle Monday by proposing a "compromise" plan which would keep rent protections for tenants earning less than $175,000 a year, provide "succession rights" for rent-regulated apartments to family members and lift rent protections from apartments that become vacant.

Pataki's plan put him in the middle between Bruno, who has vowed to "end rent control as we know it" and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is fighting to retain the status quo.

Bruno also stepped up his attacks on Silver, saying the Manhattan Democrat would have "full responsibility for rent control ceasing to exist June 16.

"He and his Democrats in the city will have full responsibility because we are not passing a bill that does not have full vacancy decontrol in it -- full," Bruno insisted.

Silver on Wednesday said he would never permit a "vacancy decontrol" proposal to be brought to a vote in the Assembly.

The state law authorizing rent protections in the city expires at midnight June 15.

Meanwhile, Mayor Giuliani will not be attending a tenant protest next Tuesday at the Capitol after organizers yanked their invitation.

Leaders of the Tenants and Neighbors Coalition, which is organizing Tuesday's mass protest, pulled the invitation because the mayor is running for re-election this year.

"They decided, at some point, to keep it free of politics and political candidates," said Giuliani spokeswoman Colleen Roche.

Giuliani, a Republican who strongly supports retaining existing rent protections, had been planning to play a high-profile role at the protest, which is expected to draw 6,000 or more tenants to the Capitol.

Copyright ©1997, N.Y.P. Holdings Inc.