Pataki urged to resolve rent control battle

Governor assures seniors that his proposals would protect most New Yorkers

Associated Press
Albany Times Union, June 3, 1997

NEW YORK -- Some senior citizens expressed their fears over the future of rent control to Gov. George Pataki, who visited a Brooklyn adult center Monday.

The Republican governor was greeted with polite applause when he arrived at the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults, but he was soon besieged with angry questions on everything from housing shortages to greedy landlords. His visit came 13 days before the state's decades-old rules limiting rent increases will expire, unless renewed by the Legislature in Albany.

Pataki said legislative leaders remain deadlocked but he sought to assure the audience that his compromise proposal would protect the interests of virtually all New Yorkers, particularly older residents. The governor's plan would preserve existing rent controls for the disabled, the elderly and tenants making less than $175,000 a year but apartments that become vacant could be placed on the market.

"Under the plan that I've advanced . . . the very clear fact is every senior citizen is protected, would continue to be protected,'' the governor said.

Pataki also said welfare workers could be used to rehabilitate old buildings to create new apartments, and that the state would provide more funding to the attorney general's office to ensure tenants aren't being gouged on rents or harassed by landlords.

Pataki is slated to host a televised forum tonight in New York City on rent control.

In Albany, as the head of a landlord group cautioned his members not to get greedy if the state's rent laws expire, New York City's mayor renewed his pleas Monday to state leaders to save the regulations.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also said it was time for Pataki to take a greater role in resolving the battle over the rent laws.

"I think the governor has to decide when he wants to step in and resolve this,'' Giuliani said after meeting with legislative leaders.

The state's rent laws that cover more than 1 million apartments, most of them in New York City. The laws expire at midnight June 15.

Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, said he had cautioned landlords to "act reasonably'' if the rent laws do expire.

Strasburg said the 25,000 landlords the RSA represents have to realize that some form of rent regulation law will likely be adopted even if there is a temporary hiatus.

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, continued to demand after meeting with Giuliani that the rent laws be phased out and again threatened to let the laws expire unless the Assembly Democrats agree to some form of decontrol.

Bruno insisted he was flexible on vacancy decontrol -- allowing apartments to be deregulated as tenants move out or die -- but would insist on some form of it.

First published on Tuesday, June 3, 1997