Boys Gone Wild

In Albany, Rape, Punch-Outs, and Shutdowns Are All a Baffling Blur

"It was an eight-year extender, and it contained real changes in the law. First of all, it took away all authority for NYC government, whether the mayor or the council, to make any changes in the rent-regulation system. The council has historically passed a lot of legislation affecting tenants rights and how the Rent Guidelines Board operates. Now it can't—even, arguably, including lead-poisoning laws for rent-regulated apartments." The council held hearings this week on a lead bill that is opposed by the same real estate interests behind the Pataki/Bruno extender.

Krueger also argued that the new law could "cause serious dislocation in neighborhoods that are gentrifying" because it allows landlords who are charging "preferential rents"—below the rates they could legally impose—to raise them to the legal maximum when they renew leases. Prior to the adoption of this law, landlords who granted preferences, often because they believed that was all they could get for apartments in marginal communities, could only raise rents by the annual percentages permitted by the guidelines board. "Now they can suddenly get huge increases," says Krueger, which could lead to "speculation in gentrifying neighborhoods."

What concerns Krueger and other rent-regulation supporters the most, though, is that vacancy decontrol for apartments renting at more than $2,000 has been extended for eight years, twice what she was willing to accept. By Krueger's calculations, that means that apartments renting at $2,000 when decontrol went into effect in 1997 would be renting at $3,500, with average 4 percent RGB increases, by the time the regulation laws come up again for renewal. Yet the ceiling will still be at $2,000, oblivious to market changes. That will knock thousands of what by then will be middle-income, not luxury, apartments off the rolls, she believes.

Incredibly, the end-of-session Albany madness disappeared from the city's dailies after one-day coverage last Saturday, with Bruno escaping any focused assessment of his government-by-midnight-edict approach. Swinging cynically from a budget alliance with Silver to a rent and ethics alliance with Pataki, abandoning lobbying disclosure positions he'd previously championed, Bruno was the only one in the three-man room to be on every winning side. In the budget battle, he went with the unions that bankroll him and his majority. Then he did the same for the check-writing real estate interests. Finally, he protected the still-secret lobbyists who bundle gobs of donations from their contract-hustling clients.

All that, and he still got his members home for the first day of summer.

Research assistance: Zoe Alsop, Michael Anstendig, Phineas Lambert, Naomi Lindt, Brittany Schaeffer, and Jessica Silver-Greenberg

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