Rudy Calls for Calm

New York Post, June 15, 1997

Mayor Giuliani yesterday tried to reassure New Yorkers that they are in no immediate danger if rent laws expire at midnight.

"No one -- absolutely no one should be in fear of being evicted in any way on Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or for any period of time in the foreseeable future because there's protection for you," he said.

Speaking from inside One Police Plaza, the mayor joined about 50 workers from various city agencies who were answering hot-line phones in the Command and Control Center -- a room last used eight months ago when a storm swept through the region.

The phones were activated at 6 a.m., and they soon began ringing with calls from people concerned they would lose their leases if the rent stabilization laws go unrenewed.

The city's general rent hot-line number is (212) 487-5858.

"People want to be on solid ground and they are so grateful to get any information from us," said Raymond Berry, an inspector for the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.

"They just are desperate to know what their future is going to be like," he said.

Giuliani said he was angry that no agreement had been reached between Gov. Pataki, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

"The frustration for me is precisely the same as the frustration for the people that are calling," Giuliani said. "This decision has been taken out of our hands by Albany."

As Giuliani circled the room shaking hands, hot-line workers answered the phone with the greeting: "This is the mayor's rent stabilization hot line."

"My legs are cramping up from sitting and talking on the phone for so long," said Jose Campos, who works for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

"There are a lot of worried people out there right now and we still don't have all the answers for them," he said.

The three state leaders couldn't come up with any answers yesterday because Silver observes the Jewish Sabbath. They are scheduled to meet today.

Pataki, meanwhile, issued an executive order making Attorney General Dennis Vacco a special prosecutor in tenant harassment cases.

Pataki said Vacco will work with local prosecutors to investigate and prosecute illegal landlord activities. The district attorneys in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn have complained that a change in the rent laws could lead to a massive increase in the number of tenant harassment cases.

"The right to live in peace in one's home is fundamental to the American way of life," Pataki said. "No one should suffer the indignity of being illegally forced from their home."

Pataki also created a statewide toll-free hot line at (888) RENT-HLP to field tenant reports of illegal landlord activities. He also asked court officials to assign more judges to the city's housing court.

But the governor's moves were treated as little more than cheap symbolism by Silver's spokeswoman, Pat Lynch.

"It's a sham," she said.