Six Months of Confrontation

New York Times, June 15, 1997

Six Months of Confrontation

DEC. 5, 1996
The State Senate's Republican majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, calls for an end to nearly all state rent regulations by 1999 and vows to let the rent laws lapse when they expire on June 15, 1997.

DEC. 11, 1996
Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, says that he favors gradual elimination of rent regulations and considers Mr. Brunoís proposal too rash.

DEC. 30, 1996
Mr. Bruno says that he will support keeping rent protections for poor tenants.

MARCH 17, 1997
The Democratic-controlled Assembly passes a bill to extend the rent laws indefinitely.

MARCH 25, 1997
Mr. Pataki, who has repeatedly refused to take a position in the rent struggle, says he will not offer his own plan on rent, but instead will play the mediator role. Democrats dismiss the notion that he could be impartial.

MARCH 26, 1997
Mr. Pataki acknowledges that he favors deregulating apartments as they become vacant, a policy known as vacancy decontrol.

APRIL 7, 1997
The State Senate, by a 33-27 vote, defeats an attempt to force a vote on whether to renew the rent laws. Two Republicans defy Mr. Bruno and join Democrats in trying to bring the matter to a vote.

APRIL 10, 1997
Two small fires break out in the office building that houses Mr. Bruno's district office in Saratoga Springs. Investigators say there is no evidence that the fires were intentionally set. But the next day, the Senator, who says he has received death threats for his stance on rent regulations, blames tenant organizers for creating a charged atmosphere that has put him in danger.

APRIL 29, 1997
The state Democratic Party, seizing on the rent laws as a 1998 campaign issue, begins broadcasting television and radio advertise-ments blaming Mr. Pataki and his Republican ally, United States Senator Alfonse M. DíAmato, for the drive to end or weaken controls.

MAY 8, 1997
Joining the public relations battle, the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, begins mailing brochures to elderly renters, assuring them that they will be protected no matter what happens in Albany.

MAY 11, 1997
John Cardinal O'Connor calls on state lawmakers to extend rent laws, and to appoint a commission to study housing and insure that any changes would not hurt the poor.

MAY 11-12, 1997
Mr. Pataki releases his own plan, calling for elimination of rent rules as units become vacant, or vacancy decontrol. He also proposes removal of rent protections for wealthy tenants and criminal penalties for landlords who harass tenants.

MAY 14, 1997
Mr. Bruno says for the first time that he would support letting immediate family members inherit apartments with rent regulations, but he would not include homosexual partners or other unmarried companions.

MAY 16, 1997
Tenants' groups begin broadcasting television commercials attacking the Pataki plan.

MAY 20, 1997
In the largest demonstration at the State Capitol in two years, thousands of tenants hold a rally calling for renewal of the rent laws.

JUNE 2, 1997
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, in his sharpest comments yet about the Governor's role in the rent battle, says that Mr. Pataki needs to do more to resolve the impasse, adding that the Governor ought to simply renew the laws.

JUNE 4, 1997
After six months of insisting on near-total deregulation in a few years, Mr. Bruno retreats to a position similar to the Governor's, saying that he would agree to vacancy decontrol and luxury decontrol. A few days later, he agreed to allow domestic partners to inherit apartment leases.

JUNE 11, 1997
The New York Times publishes the results of a poll showing that more than 70 percent of New York City residents support rent regulations, and that 60 percent disapprove of Mr. Patakiís handling of the issue. But the specifics of Mr. Patakiís plan ó vacancy decontrol and luxury decontrol ó receive moderate support.

JUNE 14, 1997
Mr. Pataki instructs the Attorney General's office and the state courts to prepare for prosecution of landlords who harass tenants. A city hot line draws a flood of calls from frightened tenants who are unsure of their rights.

Credit: The New York Times