February 27, 1997
Hundreds of placard-waving tenants rallied outside City Hall yesterday to denounce landlords and politicians and demand renewal of threatened state rent protection.
The tenants, worried that state lawmakers will allow the laws on more than a million city apartments to expire in June, applauded as housing advocates accused State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer), Gov. Pataki, Mayor Giuliani and other officials of favoring landlords.
“Landlords have claimed for years that rent control and rent stabilization have made it impossible for them to make what they call reasonable or adequate profit. This is sheer baloney,” Bob Grossman of SRO Tenants United told the crowd at City Hall Park.
The rally was the first major protest by Showdown ’97, a coalition of tenant organizations fighting Bruno’s threat to let the state rent laws expire on June 15. The laws regulate how much landlords can charge for lease renewals and vacated apartments.
Bruno has called for a two-year transition to a free-market rent system. Only elderly, disabled and low-income tenants would keep rent protections under Bruno’s plan.
But the Democratic-controlled Assembly and several Republican lawmakers from New York City districts are battling to extend the current laws.
The tenants called on other state lawmakers to support the fight. Carrying sheets and placards that read “Keep Rent Protection,” the crowd of about 750 joined in chants of “Tenants united will never be defeated.”
Bruno spokesman John McArdle scoffed at charges that the majority leader is beholden to landlord groups, who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Senate Republicans. He said Bruno “has been calling for rent decontrols for the last 10 years” on the ground that the laws perpetuate an unfair system.
Jack Freund, a spokesman for the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents most of the 25,000 owners of the more than 1 million rent-stabilized housing units in the city, criticized the tenant activists.
“Rent regulations have been a disaster for New York City’s economy and its renters. It’s time to phase out the system in a responsible manner,” Freund said.
But Jenny Laurie, director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said that “landlords are full of crap” for battling to strip tenants of their rights under the law.