Room Disservice

Fran Reiter will check out SROs on convention web site

"We have to go through the mayor's intergovernmental relations people to set up a meeting, and they said absolutely not," said Mary Barber, an aide to Upper West Side councilmember Ronnie Eldridge, who sponsored the bill. The mayor's press office did not return calls.

At a December 11 hearing before the council's Committee on Housing and Buildings, Silva offered to meet with Eldridge and committee chair Archie Spigner. But when council staffers tried to set up such a meeting after the holidays, the mayor's office derailed it, sources say.

Eldridge's bill would require, among other things, that DOB issue stop-work orders when SROs are illegally altered and investigate SRO owners' permit applications— measures that are now optional for the department. Silva says such a law would be too costly and diminish DOB's discretion. The city's largest landlord lobby, the Rent Stabilization Association, has used similar arguments in opposing the bill. The heavyweight opposition has made for a bumpy history: A 1997 version never made it out of committee, and September 1998 hearings on the rewritten bill were canceled.

As the bill languishes, SRO rooms are lost.

"It's too late for my building; there's piles of tourists there now," testified Charles Becker, a long-term tenant of the Amsterdam Court Hotel at 226 West 50th Street, where owners are under a court order to restore the alterations they made without proper permits. "They worked night and day, turned the water and electricity off, and didn't let us use the elevator. But even though it's too late for my hotel, maybe you can help someone else. Please pass this bill."

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