Rent Control War Continues In Albany

WNBC News, May 21, 1997

Albany, NY, May 20 - As tenant leaders led cheers, thousands of New York City tenants who had been mobilized by tenant advocacy groups gathered before the steps of the state capitol on Tuesday.

The more than 7,000 renters had arrived by the busload from New York City, Nassau and Westchester Counties. Armed with placards and fueled by passion, they came with a message for the governor. Their message was for Gov. Pataki to keep rent laws just as they are.

Tenant leaders blasted the governor’s proposed compromise. The compromise calls for vacancy decontrol, which allows landlords to raise rents to free market levels when tenants move out or die.

State Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who is leading the Democratic challenge to keep rent laws as they stand, struck the most defiant tone. “He has known from the beginning,” Silver said, referring to Pataki, “that we Democrats will not budge on vacancy decontrol.”

On the other side was Sen. Joseph Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican who leads the fight to abolish rent-regulation laws in New York. Bruno said on Tuesday that Silver’s hard line will lead to the expiration of all rent laws in New York State. “Every tenant that’s here will be deregulated at midnight of June 15. Thank you, Speaker Shelly Silver,” Bruno said.

Pataki, however, said he thinks tenants will lose rent protections because Silver and Bruno are unwilling to talk.

Now that the buses have left Albany and the tenants are back in the city, the real political maneuvering will begin. The governor will try to hammer out compromise legislation that will please both Democrats and Republicans before rent laws expire.

While both sides insist they will not budge, many lawmakers said they are confident that a last-minute deal will be struck to preserve at least some form of rent control.