Landlords' Group Tries to Turn Spotlight on Silver

New York Times, June 14, 1997
N>EW YORK -- The Rent Stabilization Association, the city's largest landlords' group, has produced a 30-second commercial on rent regulation that began appearing Thursday night.

It will appear through Monday on New York 1; Channel 2, WCBS; Channel 4, WNBC; Channel 5, WNYW; Channel 7, WABC; Channel 9, WWOR, and Channel 11, WPIX.

PRODUCER: Jamestown Associates

ON THE SCREEN: The advertisement begins with a black-and-white picture of Gov. George Pataki, who is smiling. As the announcer speaks, some of the words from the script flash on the screen, and the image of an elderly couple, also smiling, appears. The screen changes to a stern-faced picture of state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as scraps from two newspaper editorials appear beneath him.

THE SCRIPT: "Governor Pataki's rent control plan protects all seniors, disabled and tenants making less than $175,000 a year. It's a good plan. Sadly, Assembly Democrat Speaker Sheldon Silver is playing politics with rent control. The Times says Silver is 'playing a dangerous game that could harm tenants.' The Daily News says when 'rent control laws expire on June 15, renters will have only Silver to blame.'

Tell Sheldon Silver: Don't let rent control expire."

ACCURACY: Pataki's rent-law proposal, known as vacancy decontrol, would maintain protections on all apartments, including those with elderly and disabled tenants -- but only until those tenants moved out or died, at which time rent limits would be lifted for the next tenant. Over time, that would phase out all rent controls in the region. His plan does advocate immediate deregulation of apartments where tenants make more than $175,000 a year.

Senate Republicans, and editorials in The New York Times and The Daily News, have accused Silver of refusing to budge on rent laws because he wants them to expire. Under this scenario, voters would blame Republicans, who oppose rent controls, and Pataki's chances for re-election next year would be damaged.

Silver has adamantly denied those motives, saying that he will not accept vacancy decontrol because it would mean an end to all rent protections.

SCORECARD: By taking a page from Pataki's strategy and not explaining that his plan would gradually end rent controls, the advertisement conveys a strong impression that only the wealthy would be affected. This could undermine the arguments of rent-control advocates that the system should be preserved intact.

The advertisement also effectively puts a spotlight on Silver, who has portrayed his position as one of principle, but who could end up sharing blame with the governor if the laws expire.