Landlords' leader: Standoff will KO rent laws

NY Post, May 28, 1997

ALBANY -- The state's top landlord leader yesterday predicted that rent laws are headed to oblivion on June 15 because of a standoff over vacancy decontrol.

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, an influential landlord group, said he believed serious negotiations on rent regulations would not even start until after the laws expire in 19 days.

"We're at the point where June 16 we'll wake up and, for the first time in 55 years, there will be no rent regulation," Strasburg said. "That's where I see it ending up."

Strasburg said he saw no way to break the deadlock between Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer).

Silver has vowed he will never agree to vacancy decontrol -- and Bruno has said he will let the rent laws die if there is no deal to enact vacancy decontrol.

Under vacancy decontrol -- which also is the foundation of Gov. Pataki's rent plan -- rent-regulated apartments are permanently decontrolled once the original tenant dies or moves and there is no legal successor.

Tenant advocates have warned it would lead to the end of the rent-control system in five to 10 years, while Pataki has forecast it would take "a few" decades before all protected apartments are moved to market rates.

After a meeting with Strasburg, Bruno agreed that the rent laws covering more than 2 million tenants are probably on their way out.

"The way we are going now, they are going to" expire, Bruno said. "It will rest solely on shoulders and his Democratic colleagues for not negotiating to protect tenants."

Because tenants are given the right to renew their leases 120 to 150 days in advance, Strasburg insisted the death of the rent laws would not mean total chaos on June 16, because tenants with leases up from mid-June through the summer would already have renewed.

"Clearly, everyone understands that in reality the world doesn't change," Strasburg said, adding it is likely some type of rent protections would eventually be enacted after a deal is struck sometime after June 15.

Tenant leader Billy Easton said he feared some landlords have been stalling lease renewals while waiting for the laws to die and he urged tenants to renew their leases if they can.

"The whole strategy of Pataki and Bruno is to push the laws to expiration and then blame Silver," said Easton, executive director of the Tenants and Neighbors Coalition.

Silver, who wants to permanently extend rent laws without any changes, revealed he will not hold further talks with Bruno and Pataki until they drop their demand for vacancy decontrol.

"I have made it very clear that until they take vacancy decontrol off the table, there will be no discussions of the other issues," Silver said. "When vacancy comes off the table, we'll talk."

Silver added, "I think their threatening 2.7 million people, hard-working families in New York, is distasteful. It's time the governor showed a little mercy."

Pataki, Bruno and Silver have each assigned their top legal aides to meet privately to discuss rent control. The meetings have been fruitless so far, according to all sides.

Copyright ©1997, N.Y.P. Holdings Inc.