The state's rent regulations are set to expire tomorrow, and Gov. Cuomo's office says it has sent letters to owners of regulated buildings warning them that any lapse doesn't give them carte blanche to go around evicting people. Part of the letter [PDF] reads:
Although June 15, 2015 is the day that several laws creating our rent stabilization system are set to expire, your legal obligations under existing leases and under the passage of the new rent stabilization program will not expire on that day; and any attempt to circumvent those responsibilities will face the full brunt of the law and all legal consequences.
The sentiment is noble, but Cuomo, it's worth remembering, made his way to power with the support of big developers. That included $1.45 million from Glenwood Management, the company tied to but not charged in the alleged bribery schemes that resulted in the indictments of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former state Senate president Dean Skelos. It's also worth recalling that he lied about having met with Glenwood about rent regulations, then when evidence of three meetings with the company emerged, claimed to have forgotten about it.
More recently, under pressure from tenant advocates he said he is pushing to end vacancy decontrol, the provision that allows for deregulating rent-stabilized apartments if they are emptied and the landlord claims to have done a certain amount of repairs, and the 20 percent increase automatically allowed between tenants. That was eight days ago. Since then, he has backpedaled, saying he will do those things down the line if lawmakers approve his measure to funnel public money into private schools through tax credits to parents, businesses, and non-profits.
In a statement released today, Cuomo said that on Friday night the Senate put forward a proposal that would extend regulations for eight years, but that is "unacceptable because it does not include the necessary improvements on the existing law, its poses new hurdles for tenants and it reduces tenant protections." A spokeswoman for his office said the Senate proposal would limit the investigative powers of the recently formed Tenant Protection Unit to only responding to individual tenant complaints, keeping it from launching its own broader investigations based on tips and further burdening the Office of Rent Administration, which handles rent overcharge claims.
In 2013, Cuomo won the support of the influential, leftist Working Families Party with a laundry list of promises, then after his election, worked to destroy the party by creating a shell third party to knock the WFP off the ballot. Thanks to big Republican gains in the mid-term elections, his pledges on immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, and other issues are now considered unfeasible. His latest waffling on rent regulation has liberal politicos threatening to run a challenger against him in 2018 unless he takes action.
Also up for renewal in Albany is 421-a, the tax abatement program that has given billions of tax dollars to developers such as Glenwood for luxury housing, with few affordable units to show for it. Cuomo says he supports extending the program, at least in the short-term, and blames Mayor de Blasio's recent proposed reforms for distracting him from developing a more thought-out stance on the issue.
We asked the Governor's Office for information on how exactly the landlord letter was distributed and why it should be read as anything other than an attempt to distract from Cuomo's lack of resolve on rent reform, and a spokeswoman responded by pointing to Cuomo's June 6th op-ed, outlining positions the Daily News reports he has kicked down the road and tied to his education privatization proposal. This reporter also reached out to his landlord Newcastle Realty, known for its attempts, sometimes legally dubious, to undermine rent stabilization, to see if it has received a copy of the letter. We will update if we hear back.
Update 3:35 pm:
Updated to incorporate a response from the Governor's Office.