Silk Stocking Strategy

Tenants Torn Between Having a Friend Among Enemies and a True Friend

Schaeffer argues that Goodman's support of rent laws has been nothing more than "lip service," since the senator has "done nothing to really challenge Bruno or Pataki," who had designs on dismantling rent laws even before he occupied the governor's mansion. "On important votes, Goodman has delivered nothing," says Schaeffer. "And when the vote does matter, he goes with the leadership." He complains that Goodman has refused to meet with tenants to discuss legislation that would overturn a state rule and allow the city to determine its own rent laws. "If his line is that's he's up there to defend us," says Schaeffer, "he's ineffective and should step aside."

Worse still, says Schaeffer, are Goodman's roles as a Republican Party leader. He is chair of the New York Republican County Committee and deputy majority leader, just under Bruno, in the senate. Since the Republican Party is what Schaeffer calls "a powerful financial conduit for the Manhattan real estate industry," which donates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to GOP candidates and committees, Goodman shares in fortifying the industry's political heft. Schaeffer argues that Goodman's boast that he does not get one cent from major real estate interests is moot. In fact, Joe Strasburg, who heads the state's largest landlord lobby, says his group "absolutely and intentionally" does not give Goodman money, even while sending checks to politicians who claim something of a pro-tenant posture, like Assemblyman Vito Lopez of Brooklyn and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver of Manhattan.

Tenant PAC's support for Goodman ends with the endorsement. McKee says the group will not hire organizers to help turn out the vote for him or against Krueger; it will use the more aggressive strategy in at least two other senate districts, the one represented by Bronx-based incumbent Guy Velella, and the Yonkers district of Nick Spano. Strasburg says his group is also sitting out the Goodman race. "We're taking a pass on it," says Strasburg. "There's no reason whatsoever for us to get involved."

Sources from both parties say that Republicans are indeed nervous about losing their grip on the senate this fall. "They're all worried," says one legislator. "They're afraid that a lot of guys, especially city and suburban guys, are going to get clocked. Look at how far left they came this year," passing bills on hate crimes, environmental protection, and gun control, in part to stave off a possible voter backlash this fall.

Even so, the prospect of a candidate dedicated to antipoverty work stepping into the Silk Stocking senate seat is intriguing. Asked how her years as an advocate for the poor translate into votes in the 26th District, Krueger quips: "That was one of my first questions." But she quickly adds that "in my district, people don't think it's bad for people to have food and housing and health care. They're not reactionary. I've been on the streets campaigning for three months, and if I've had five people who have said to me, 'I won't vote for you because you're a liberal or radical, you believe in welfare,' that's a lot."

Indeed, Krueger says her candidacy was born out of her work as an advocate. "It's frustrating doing antipoverty work in New York City in 2000," she says. "I've spent 20 years living with the effects of bad legislation or seeing legislation that should have been passed fail. I know what it means on the street. You could do all the right things and get a bill through the assembly, but no matter how right or how strong the measure was, you knew you weren't getting it through the senate, and it would never be law. Maybe you could get a sponsor, even a Republican, to pretend to propose it, but it would never pass. I decided I could be more aggravated at what I saw government was not doing, or I could take the plunge.

"So what's the worst that could happen? I lose. No one dies. For some politicians, I know they consider that a life-and-death issue. But I've actually worked with people on real life-and-death issues. This is not one of them."

Ballot tips for tenants: Tenant PAC is offering a voters' guide to many legislative contests in the city and nearby suburbs. To get one, write the group at 238 West 78th Street, 10024-6605, or call 212-713-5426.

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