Silver: No property-tax break without rent relief

By GREGG BIRNBAUM
Post Correspondent

ALBANY -- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver yesterday unleashed his harshest attack yet on Gov. Pataki over rent controls -- and tied their preservation to property-tax relief.

Saying he has good reason to be "hostile," Silver (D-Manhattan) accused Pataki of subjecting more than 2 million city renters to "torment" by ducking the biggest issue facing the Legislature this year.

"What kind of government intentionally scares millions of families with the threat of taking away their homes?" Silver said to a group of about 100 renters from The Bronx.

"What kind of government places the wealth of 25,000 landlords over the lives of 2 million rent-paying tenants and their families?"

"What kind of governor, what kind of leader sits back and says nothing and allows it to go on?"

Silver revealed that on Monday, in a private meeting with Pataki and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer), he proposed for the first time that rent laws be tied to negotiations on upstate property-tax relief and other housing issues.

Silver's proposal could strengthen his hand in seeking to continue rent protections because he could hold up property tax relief -- a big deal upstate, but not in the city -- until he gets what he wants.

Pataki and upstate Republicans are strongly pushing property-tax cuts.

Bruno, who wants to eliminate rent protections, immediately rejected Silver's approach.

"The speaker now threatens to stand in the way of property-tax cuts for homeowners across the state unless current rent regulations are extended or made permanent," Bruno said. "Rather than holding hostage property-tax relief for continued rent regulations, the speaker should be talking about a responsible compromise."

In his speech to tenants, Silver called Bruno a "front man" for Pataki.

"The best that the governor can come up with is that he wants to remain vague," Silver said. "Think about that. Your homes are on the line, and your governor wants to remain vague."

"A real leader articulates his position, a real leader takes a stand, and that's exactly what Mr. Pataki needs to do," Silver added.

Pataki spokesman Mike McKeon refused to comment, other than citing statements on Monday by former Mayor Ed Koch who accused Silver of holding up a compromise deal on rent regulations.

Pataki has generally kept mum on the rent issue, saying that will help him serve as a deal-maker who can bring both sides together. Pataki's voting record in the Legislature and his public statements suggest he favors major changes in the system.

The Democratic-controlled state Assembly has passed legislation that would extend rent regulations indefinitely, but Silver insisted yesterday he is willing to compromise in talks with Pataki and Bruno.

But Bruno said Silver's "continued intransigence on negotiating a reasonable transition out of rent regulations increases the likelihood that state laws will expire on June 15."


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