New York City

De Blasio urges Albany to act on rent rules, schools

May 28, 2015 Associated Press
Mayor Bill de Blasio. AP photo
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to strengthen his city’s rent regulations and modify a real estate tax break to require more affordable housing, saying there is no excuse for inaction on issues affecting millions of city residents.

De Blasio traveled to the capital city to press his case personally, meeting with Cuomo and top lawmakers at a critical time for his legislative agenda. He discounted predictions that the recent arrests of the former Senate and Assembly leaders have paralyzed state government, saying the final weeks of the legislative session offer “a chance for Albany to turn the page” on its recent scandals.

“The reputation of Albany is on the line,” he said. “A lot of problems have occurred up here. People all over the state are disappointed in Albany. It’s a chance for Albany to turn the page and do some things that will actually restore faith.”

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Three laws of great significance to the city are set to expire in June. One governs longstanding rent stabilization rules that cover 2 million renters, another gives de Blasio control of the city’s public education system and the third authorizes a real estate tax break that saved New York City developers more than $1 billion last year.

Many lawmakers predict the laws will simply be extended with few changes, but the mayor said that would be a wasted opportunity. De Blasio wants to strengthen the rent rules, modify the tax break to require developers to include more affordable housing units and make mayoral control of schools permanent, though he said Wednesday he is willing to accept a three-year extension.

De Blasio called out Cuomo specifically. The two men, Democrats, profess their friendship publicly but have frequently clashed.

“We particularly need the governor to act,” he said. “We need leadership. We know the governor has been able in the past to create real change here in Albany and get things done. This is a moment when we need that leadership.”

Cuomo supports a three-year extension of mayoral control of schools and has warned of dire consequences if the rent laws and the tax break are allowed to expire. But he also has said that the political turmoil in Albany makes it less likely that lawmakers will approve big changes to either program.

The Associated Press asked Cuomo’s spokesman for a response to de Blasio’s comments and was provided with a statement that criticized the mayor’s ideas as untested and lacking in support.

The meeting with Cuomo was followed by talks with the Assembly’s Democratic majority as well as the new leader of the Senate, Republican John Flanagan, of Long Island, and the Independent Democratic Conference, a five-member Senate faction led by Sen. Jeff Klein, of the Bronx.

“The mayor certainly is not shy about advocating for his agenda,” Klein said. “He’s got an agenda, and it’s smart for him to come up here to discuss it.”

De Blasio’s proposals face significant obstacles. Lawmakers plan to adjourn June 17, leaving little time for big changes to complicated laws. The two men who not long ago would have led the negotiations — former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat — were forced from their leadership positions this year.

De Blasio said lawmakers should still have the time and ability to make changes.

“In Albany terms there’s still a lot of time on the clock,” he told reporters following an hour-long meeting with Cuomo. “There are still several weeks and a lot can happen.”

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