Mario sees gov giving up fight for vacancy decontrol

NY Post, May 30, 1997

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo said yesterday he believes rent laws will be changed -- but predicted Gov. Pataki will throw in the towel in the fight over vacancy decontrol.

Cuomo urged Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to "hold fast" in his flat-out opposition to vacancy decontrol, even if it means the rent laws expire for a time on June 15 before they are renewed.

Cuomo said Pataki would eventually surrender and that state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer) -- who wants to end most rent protections -- will then find his own position compromised.

"Vacancy decontrol won't happen," Cuomo told The Post.

Cuomo advised Silver: "You hold fast and you say, "It's not my fault.' The other guys will break. They'll do whatever the polls tell them to do."

Pataki, Bruno and Silver remain deadlocked primarily over vacancy decontrol, under which regulated apartments would move to market rents after the current tenant dies or moves and there is no legal successor.

Silver has said he will never agree to vacancy decontrol, while Bruno has vowed to let the rent laws expire if there is no deal including vacancy decontrol. It also is a key part of Pataki's rent plan.

Cuomo said he believes Bruno will not budge, but that his demand for vacancy decontrol will be undermined if Pataki caves in. Cuomo predicted several Republican state senators from the city -- who have rent-protected tenants in their legislative districts -- will ultimately abandon Bruno.

If they do desert Bruno, he won't have the 31 votes needed to pass legislation reforming the rent-regulation system.

Cuomo also said he believes it is inevitable that the luxury-decontrol income level would be lowered from the current $250,000 for tenants in apartments going for $2,000 or more.

Pataki has proposed lifting rent protections for anyone making more than $175,000, while Bruno wants to lower it more, but he has not been specific.

Meanwhile, the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord group, has sent a letter to landlords warning them not to jump on tenants if the rent laws are allowed to expire temporarily.

The letter tells landlords they will only be hurting their chances for changes to the rent system.

And the state Democratic Party attacked U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato and state Republicans for receiving more than $1 million in contributions from 14 major real-estate developers and landlord political-action committees since 1993.

At a news conference in front of City Hall, state Democratic Chairwoman Judith Hope stood beside a poster of D'Amato with the title "Senator Landlord" -- and charged that D'Amato was part of a landlord-Republican scheme to enact vacancy decontrol.

In a statement last night, D'Amato said, "I am absolutely confident that the legislative leaders -- Sen. Bruno, Speaker Silver and the governor -- will come to an agreement that assures the right of all tenants are protected."

Copyright ©1997, N.Y.P. Holdings Inc.