Saturday, April 16, 2011

Freshman state Sen. Espaillat going to bat for more than 1M tenants from rent regulation changes

Thursday, April 14th 2011, 4:00 AM

state Sen. Adriano Espaillat has taken the lead in the fight in Albany to protect rent regulations
Hagen for News
state Sen. Adriano Espaillat has taken the lead in the fight in Albany to protect rent regulations

Uptown state Sen. Adriano Espaillat is technically a freshman, but he has become the Democratic pointman in Albany's tug-of-war over rent regulations.

The regs, which shelter more than 1 million apartments in the city from full market-rate rents, expire June 14. They last came up for renewal in 2003, with awful results for pro-tenant forces.

Albany Democrats were caught flat-footed by Senate Republicans, who waited until just after the midnight expiration deadline to pass a landlord-friendly version of a renewal bill and then skipped town for the summer. The Democratic-controlled Assembly was forced to pass the same bill or see the regs die.

Pro-tenant advocates and fellow Democrats are counting on Espaillat to help prevent another midnight sacking. And Espaillat, a savvy political pro with ambitions to someday become a congressman, has embraced his role with gusto.

And well he should. His 31st Senate District (which ranges from the upper West Side to Riverdale in the Bronx) has more rent-regulated units that any other district in the city, at 78,700. (Bill Perkins and Jose Serrano, who represent the two other northern Manhattan Senate districts, are fourth and sixth on that list, with 63,100 and 57,300, respectively.)

On the strength of his prior 14 years in the Assembly, Espaillat was tapped as the ranking minority Democrat on the Senate Housing Committee. And he's chief sponsor of the same tenant-friendly omnibus rent regulations bill passed three days ago by the Democratic Assembly.

"It's not like he had to be educated," tenant activist Michael McKee of Tenants PAC said of Espaillat's frontman role.

"I'm very optimistic that we're going to win this battle," Espaillat said Monday after he and other pro-tenant strategists met with Gov. Cuomo.

Three senators say 'Ouch!'

They agree the new state budget will hurt their constituents, but the three northern Manhattan senators said "ouch" in three different ways.

Perkins (Harlem-Washington Heights-Inwood) just said no to all seven of the key bills, without questions or comments, as is allowed during floor votes.

"The most eloquent statement is your vote," Perkins told Uptown Politics. "I didn't duck it - I said no!"

Serrano (East Harlem-South Bronx) said yes to all, and kept his mouth zipped.

"We fought the good fight before the bills were printed," he explained. "I wanted to move beyond the budget to other critical issues we face."

Espaillat voted yes on four bills and no on three (aid to localities, the education portion and implementing the fiscal plan).

He also spoke out against cuts in education aid and letting the "millionaires' tax" expire.

"Once again, the poor, the working-class and middle -class New Yorkers of this great state are saddled with the responsibility of balancing the budget, of plugging the deficit," Espaillat said during floor-vote remarks.

Gangs clinic planned

Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Harlem-Washington Heights-Inwood) is planning to hold an annual clinic on gang-related problems.

The first is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Harlem State Office Building, 163 W. 125th St. (eighth floor).

Participants will include representatives of Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. and "former gang members, mothers who have lost children to gangs and others with inside knowledge of gangs within Harlem," Wright announced.

flombardi@nydailynews.com

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