Where Power Lies: Rent Regulations
Who Decides and What Happens

by Jeffrey Kaufman
The Resident, June 5, 1997

Want to pass a bill in the New York Legislature? Go to your local legislator, right? Well, maybe.

If anything, the recent media attention on the future of rent regulation tells us that most legislative power in our state is controlled by Senate Republican Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno from upstate Rensselaer County and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat.

Bruno, who issued an ultimatum to the Assembly, plans to pass one bill on June 11, the last of the legislative session His bill will provide that current rent regulations will only apply to current apartment dwellers and will expire when they move out.

Silver, on the other hand, refuses to accept "vacancy decontrol" but faces the complete expiration of the laws if a compromise is not worked out.

Local legislators, not in leadership positions, from both houses have felt the intense lobbying from both sides but have little affect on leadership decisions.

Serphin Maltese, a Republican Senator from Queens, who has been reported to favor vacancy decontrol, said that no issue in his eight years has evoked such mail as the current rent control debate.

Most other city legislators support the continuation of rent laws and, like Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, have expressed outrage that one upstate legislative leader can dictate the future of rent regulation in the city.

But many outside of legislative circles don’t realize that no bill gets put to a vote with Bruno or Silver’s O.K. In fact, in the state Senate, the majority leader has the power to mark bills that get to the floor. Other bills simply die.

Once the bill does get to the floor, don’t expect that legislative debate will take place. Since 1978, not one Senate bill that made it to the floor was voted down.

Should vacancy decontrol pass it is unclear what affect it would have in Queens which contains 43 percent of the available apartments currently subject to rent regulation.

Many fear that deregulation will cause a migration from Manhattan, which will drive up rents areas like Forest Hills. Others, like the Mayor, see the effects of deregulation causing a migration out of New York City altogether leaving only the very rich and the very poor.


Queens contains 43 percent of the available apartments currently subject to rent regulation.


The Clock Ticks … and Ticks

With the clock ticking on rent laws, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani visited Albany to urge Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to sit down and begin negotiations.

While the mayor was in Albany, Gov. George Pataki was in Brooklyn trying to sell his vacancy decontrol plan to senior citizens.

Back and forth went the war of words.

Tenant advocates refused to participate in a New York 1 forum on the issue with the governor, arguing the panel was stacked in his favor.

Pataki shot back, in a press release issued Tuesday, "The truth is now clear: The so-called advocates who oppose my plan to protect all tenants but the wealthiest few are afraid to an open debate because they know that their ideas are bankrupt. Their rhetoric can not stand the light of day."

The debate is capturing the unlikeliest of interest. The IKEA furniture stores in Hicksville, Long Island, and Elizabeth, NJ – New Jersey? — will be distributing self-addressed stamp envelopes addressed to Bruno urging the continuation of rent regs on the weekend before the laws expire.

The stores will also be giving out free sticky buns. The theme of the day, said Joseph Tsokanos, an IKEA spokesman, is, "Hey, Albany, kiss my sticky buns."

"We want to give New Yorkers the chance to voice their opinions," said Tsokanos, who noted that many IKEA buyers live in New York City. "It’s an issue that so greatly effects people."

And what about New Jersey?

"The end of rent regulations would effect New Jersey," he said, not quite convincingly.

— Peter Duffy


Letters to the Editor

If Rent Laws Die, It’s Adios Republicans

To the editor:

Joe Bruno’s actions to eliminate rent control and rent stabilization in New York City and its suburbs, and Gov. Pataki’s inaction in preventing it, will lead to the defeat of all statewide Republican candidates, including Pataki.

I am a registered Republican, a member of the Republican National Committee, and my apartment is not subject to rent control or rent stabilization. My family and I will, however, vote against all Republican candidates who support or do not strongly oppose vacancy decontrol, the end of middle class housing in New York City!

Pataki and Bruno have fallen prey to greed and succumbed to the bribes (read: political contributions) of real estate moguls. While this may not effect their constituency in the upstate districts, where both Bruno and Pataki live, it will result in the decimation of the Republican Party in New York State.

This is a major mistake! I hope that Pataki reconsiders and uses his influence to reel Bruno in. This is a downstate matter and should be in the hands of the New York City Council and other interested local public administrations.

Edward R. Rudy

New York City