Sheldon Silver:
He's the One

Daily News, June 11, 1997
Any hope that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver intends to reach a deal on the rent control laws before Sunday is erased by the actions of his allies. The tenant activists who are Silver's shock troops have scheduled four anti-Pataki rallies for the next two weeks after the laws expire.

Monday, the tenant groups are planning a protest at the governor's mansion in Albany in the morning and at his Manhattan office in the afternoon.

Thursday, they'll picket a Pataki appearance in Queens.

Sunday, June 22, Silver's raiders will rally at Gov. Pataki's Garrison home.

Does that sound like the strategy of someone looking to avert disaster? Silver's plan is clear: Let the laws lapse then shift the blame to Pataki. It might be good politics emphasis on might but it's lousy government.

New Yorkers should not be hoodwinked. If rent protections expire, Silver is the one to blame. The speaker is playing Russian roulette and the Silver bullet is pointed at the heads of 2 million New York renters.

Silver, echoing the most radical tenant groups who appear with him at rallies, has refused to negotiate any fair changes to New York's stifling rent laws. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno have been flexible. Indeed, they already have compromised in a process that essentially has them negotiating with themselves. Silver has yet to offer a single substantive idea.

Pataki especially has staked out a reasonable middle ground one that would maintain rent protections for the vast majority of tenants. Apartments would lose their protections only after all eligible family members or domestic partners move out or die. The poor, elderly and infirm would be protected even after that. Building owners who attempt to force tenants to leave would be punished severely.

The need for reform is unquestionable. Rent control and rent stabilization have taken more than 1 million apartments off the open market, driving up rents of all the remaining units. They repress the natural flow of construction, further pushing up demand for an ever-scarce supply.

The laws also cause property tax revenues to plummet. Rent reform could bring the city an additional $100 million a year in revenue, which could be earmarked for building new housing.

By refusing to consider vacancy decontrol, Silver shows he is willing to ignore a fair compromise to protect the failed status quo. That same tactic of stalling, stalling and then stalling some more explains why the state's four latest budgets in history have all been while Silver was Assembly speaker.

Indeed, stalling seems to be his only aim. At a private conference last October, top members of Silver's staff admitted they stall on hot issues to appear to be putting up "a good fight."

Clearly, Silver has opted for that tactic again. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, it's a trick that will blow up in their faces. When it does, they'll know whom to blame.