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Politics and Government

Legislature allows NYC rent laws to expire

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Karen Dewitt
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WRVO News (file photo)

The New York City rent laws expired Monday night as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators continued to negotiate on the rent laws, a related pretty tax break for developers, and an education tax credit.   

Assembly Democrats approved a temporary 48-hour extension of the laws, which affect around one million apartments. But rather than pass a temporary extension, Senate Republicans approved an 8-year extension of the laws late Monday night.

A small group of tenants rallied outside Cuomo’s office earlier Monday to urge him to stick to proposals to strengthen tenants’ rights during the negotiations to renew the new rent laws. AssemblywomanMaritzaDavila, who represents the Williamsburg and Bushwick sections of Brooklyn, says landlords are trying to force low income tenants out, and must be stopped.

“There is no way that I am going to allow this to continue to happen,” Davila said. “The clock is ticking. As the clock ticks, that’s how uncertain my community and all New Yorkers feel.”

Davila was one of over four dozen people arrested outside the governor’s office two weeks ago, when tenant advocates complained that Cuomo was not speaking strongly for reforming the rent laws.

Now Cuomo, and Assembly Democratic Speaker Carl Heastie says they want to reform what’s known as the vacancy decontrol clause in the laws, while Senate Republicans wanted to simply extend the laws without changes for another eight years.

Sen. Cathy Young, a  Republican from Olean, says Republicans also back an alternative bill that would put more onus on tenants to prove that they actually deserve to live in a rent stabilized apartment.

“It brings accountably,” Young said.

Senator Young says a related tax break for real estate developers who build affordable housing, known as the 421a clause, is not being actively discussed right now. It also was set to expire atmidnight.

Young says Republicans are also pressing to make the state’s property tax cap permanent, an issue that’s of concern to homeowners upstate and in the New York City suburbs.

“That absolutely is a priority,” she said.

The tax cap does not expire until next year, but a related law passed in 2011 ties continued existence of the cap to the continuation of the rent laws.

One other remaining issue is also being seriously discussed -- an education tax credit that would allow a tax credit for donations of up to one million dollars to pay for poor children to go to private schools. The money could also be used to fund extra curricular programs at public schools of the donor’s choosing.

Lobbyists for the education tax credit, including the Catholic Conference, were working the halls of the Capitol hoping to convince a few more lawmakers to support a measure that would allow donors a tax break if they give money to scholarships for poor children who want to attend private and parochial schools.

Senate Education Chairman Carl Marcellino, who backs the measure, says he’s hopeful of an agreement with the Assembly Democrats, who do not yet have the 76 votes needed to pass the bill.

“I think it looks real positive,” Marcellino said.

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Credit Karen DeWitt / WRVO News
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WRVO News
Rev. Sandy Damhof, Journey United Church of Christ, was arrested outside the Senate chamber as part of Moral Monday.

Assembly Democrats have proposed an alternative measure that would give families earning up to $120,000  a year a $3,000 tax credit if a child attends private schools, but would not offer a tax break for donors to the scholarship fund. Marcellino says he hasn’t closely read that bill.

There’s one issue that’s not been on the end of session agenda, and that’s ethics reform.

More than 20 protesters from the Moral Monday movement were arrested outside the State Senate chambers, saying they want to end corruption at the Capitol that’s led to charges against the two majority party legislative leaders this session.