State legislature agrees to five-day rent laws extender

By LOUIS FLORES

The New York State Senate ended the impasse over the renewal of New York City's rent stabilization laws by agreeing to pass a five-day extender, allowing state legislators to take the week-end off, before returning on Tuesday to resume negotiations on a permanent bill.

Previously, the Republican Party-controlled State Senate had passed a bill proposing an eight-year extension on rent laws, but the GOP bill was loaded with poisonous provisions that were meant to weaken the rent laws, an outcome desired by developers and landlords, creating a conflict with the State Assembly, which was seeking the strengthening of the rent laws, not a weakening of them.

For example, State Senator Catharine Young (R-Jamestown), the chair of the State Senate's housing committee, had sponsored a rent laws bill with poisonous provisions that sought to lower the threshold at which rent stabilized apartments would be deregulated, a process known as vacancy decontrol, and the bill would further deregulate rent stabilized apartments if tenants earned incomes deemed too high.  

In the 2014 state election cycle, State Senator Young received many campaign contributions from real estate interests, including a $10,000 contribution from East 77 Realty LLC, an entity controlled by Glenwood Management's Leondard Litwin.

State Senator Young's counterpart in the lower legislative house, Assemblymember Keith Wright (D-Harlem), had been incapable of rallying support for a timely renewal of rent laws.

The lack of an agreement from both legislative houses allowed rent laws to expire at midnight Monday evening, leading to a political blame game between the State Assembly, the State Senate, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City).

Mayor de Blasio had been blaming Albany officials, notably Governor Cuomo, for the impasse.  However, as reported by Progress Queens, Mayor de Blasio has been unable to leverage his insider relationships with Albany officials or his considerable influence over key tenant advocacy nonprofit groups to his advantage.

The state legislature has been rocked by corruption scandals due, in part, to the influence of large campaign contributions from the real estate industry.  The federal corruption charges filed against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) involved Glenwood Management, an important campaign contributor to State Senator Young.  

Both legislative leaders stepped down from their leadership posts after they were arrested but kept their elected offices, and they were replaced in the leadership by Assemblymember Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) and State Senator John Flanagan (R-Stony Brook), respectively, who, in turn, have collectively been unable to manage the agenda in the final weeks of this year's legislative session.