One of the state’s most powerful lobbies, the real estate industry, has been dealt a favorable hand amid the chaos in Albany with rent regulation bills up in the air.
But a representative from one landlord lobbying group said the industry had no influence over setting the state Senate coup in motion, let alone information that the takeover was in the works.
State Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx), who, along with state Sen. Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), sided with Republicans to give Republicans control of the Senate before Monserrate switched back to the Democrats, was coming under pressure from Democratic leaders to bring rent legislation to the Senate floor as chairman of the Senate Housing Committee when the coup took place, The New York Times reported last week.
The paper said it was likely Espada had been heavily courted by the real estate lobby for his influential control in determining whether rent legislation came to the floor, but it could not be determined how much money he received from such groups because he had not submitted his campaign finance filings as of earlier last week.
A state Elections Board spokesman said Espada handed in eight campaign finance forms Friday, but the board had not received a check as of 5 p.m. Tuesday from the senator to pay fines for not giving it the filings on time.
A TimesLedger Newspapers review of Monserrate’s state campaign finance filings since 2006 showed about 8 percent, or at least $65,200 of his contributions came from real estate interests. Reviewing his most recent campaign in 2008, about 7 percent, or $29,900, came from real estate interests.
By comparison, City Councilman James Gennaro’s (D-Fresh Meadows) campaign against Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) had about 20 percent, or more than $181,000, in donations from real estate interests.
Monserrate has also been a leading opponent of vacancy decontrol, which would allow rent stabilized apartments to be moved to market rate,, further supporting the argument the real estate lobby did not factor in his decision to briefly align himself with the Republicans, who routinely side with landlords on rent issues.
Monserrate spokesman Peter Marin said the senator did not have an immediate comment and did not respond to an e-mail request.
Frank Ricci, director of governmental affairs for the Rent Stabilization Association, a landlord lobbying group, said the coup took the real estate industry by surprise and that the influential lobby did not facilitate the takeover.
“Where [the chaos] is going, I really don’t know,” he said.
Ricci said the issue was more about organizations such as ACORN and the Working Families Party pressuring Democrats to get rent legislation passed to further their own interests than the rent lobby pressuring legislators not to pass such bills.
“This has always been a political issue, not a housing issue,” Ricci said of the organizations’ motives.
He said the organizations perpetuated a “myth” that there was an urgency to pass such legislation when in reality rents are going down, tenants are not in danger of losing their apartments and rent regulation laws expire two years from now.
“I think they sold this issue on the importance of it when it really just affects affluent residents in Manhattan,” who are not part of ACORN’s and the Working Families Party’s constituencies, he said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2009 Community News Group
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