By Frank Lombardi
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.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.
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.