Pedro Espada Jr.: No One's More Loyal -- to Landlords

By Sara Gates

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. defected from the Democrats and then defected from the Republicans during last year's Albany madness, but he'll always be loyal to his landlord pals.

Last month, Espada launched a trial balloon for legislation that would ostensibly "freeze rents" for half a million tenants in rent-stabilized apartments. Sounded good, but as the Voice's weekend anchor Julia pointed out at the time, it would be nothing but a heavy burden on taxpayers and a really nice gift to landlords — particularly to landlords who were pulling a fast one on the public until the courts stepped in.

Now Espada, who represents some of the poorest parts of the Bronx but has always been in the landlords' pocket, has actually introduced such a bill, and his fellow legislators are stamping it out as if it were a cockroach.

Landlords who received a certain kind of tax break from the city were eager as always to pull their properties out of rent regulation. But last year, the State Court of Appeals ruled that those landlords who received the so-called J-51 tax breaks could not pull their properties out.

Tishman Speyer, for example, took the J-51 tax breaks and illegally deregulated apartments by raising rent prices to match those at market value. When the court struck down that strategy of having one's cake and eating it too, Tishman Speyer's plans for — and control of — Stuy-Town evaporated. As the Voice noted last month:

That [court] decision set off the default of the real estate partnership attempting to deregulate Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village and a grand mal flop sweat panic among Espada's beloved New York landlords, speculative real estate investors, and the people who move the money around.

Espada's bill is likely to be squashed in committee. Fellow Democratic senator Liz Krueger tells the Voice today: "Clearly the intention of this bill is to resolve a legal problem of people who illegally deregulated and increased rent on units more than they were allowed to under the law."

Getting right down to it, Krueger says the bill from the Senate Majority Leader "wasn't taken seriously."


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