Tenants to hit Pataki where he lives

New York Post, June 6, 1997

ALBANY -- The state's largest tenant group plans to take the rent-control battle right to Gov. Pataki's Putnam County doorstep on his birthday.

An anti-Pataki demonstration has been called by the Tenants and Neighbors Coalition for June 22 if the rent laws covering 2.5 million tenants are allowed to expire on June 15 -- just nine days from now.

"Wish George a Happy Birthday at his home in Garrison, N.Y.," says a schedule of eight upcoming tenant demonstrations, starting tomorrow and running through June 22.

Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon ripped the tenant group for planning protests before the rent laws have run out, while there is still hope for a deal.

"This is the clearest indication to date that the so-called tenant advocates and their Democratic allies have no interest in protecting the renters and are more interested in promoting their own political agenda," McKeon said.

"We remain committed to having a plan in place on time that protects rent control except for a few wealthy millionaires."

Pataki, whose 52nd birthday is two days after the rally, lives with his wife, Libby, and four kids in a sprawling 24-room Victorian home on the Hudson River.

Protesters from the city are planning to make the hour-and-a-half trip by bus.

"We think it's appropriate" to demonstrate at Pataki's home, said Billy Easton, executive director of the Tenants and Neighbors Coalition. "This is about people's housing, people potentially losing their homes."

Other events planned by tenants' groups include lobbying in the district of fence-sitting state Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx), a candlelight vigil at Pataki's Manhattan office at midnight on June 15, and pickets at other Pataki events.

In another development, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer), who wants to gradually phase out the rent-regulation system, vowed he will not extend rent laws even for "one minute" past the June 15 deadline unless there's a deal.

Bruno blamed the lack of progress on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who favors continuing rent laws without any changes.

"Unfortunately, Speaker Silver continues to refuse to negotiate," Bruno said.

Silver has said he is willing to talk, but will not agree to vacancy decontrol, which is backed by Pataki and Bruno.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Franz Leichter (D-Manhattan) accused Bruno of having a double standard because he supports farm subsidies for upstaters valued at $100 million annually.

"Bruno apparently opposes subsidies only when it does not affect his constituents," said Leichter, who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment.

Copyright ©1997, N.Y.P. Holdings Inc.