Thursday, February 18th 2010, 4:00 AM
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU
A supposedly tenant-friendly bill touted by Bronx state Sen. Pedro Espada got an unfriendly reception Wednesday at City Hall.
Standing on the steps of City Hall with several dozen sign-carrying supporters, Espada (D-Bronx) told assembled reporters that his recently introduced bill would help some 700,000 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers by freezing their rents in stabilized apartments.
As he spoke, he didn't notice that some opponents of the bill had infiltrated his supporters and were holding up signs reading, "Evict Espada, Protect Tenant Rights" and "Beware Of This Bill."
Some Espada supporters tried to cover up the anti-bill signs with pro-bill ones, and vice versa. The scuffling prompted Espada to cut his press conference short.
He grumbled that "many of the people who have taken their positions against this proposal haven't read the proposal at all."
Espada said the rent freeze for families with a combined after-tax income of up to $45,000 a year will be funded through a buy-back by landlords of the J-51 tax breaks they had received from the city. He said that "over $100 million" will be raised in the first year of his proposed J-51 buy-back program.
But tenant activist Michael McKee of Housing Here and Now, who helped organize the infiltration, said Espada's bill is a ruse that allows landlords to get out of the financial liability of a recent court decision that declared that tens of thousands of rent-stabilized apartments were improperly turned into market-rate units.
"It's a pro-landlord bill posing as a pro-tenant bill," McKee said.
Besides being the Senate's majority leader, Espada is chairman of the Senate's Housing Committee. Critics have complained that he's too close to landlords and received hefty contributions from them.