Assembly Democrats seeking more from ‘framework’ deal

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June 24, 2015 by westsideneighborhoodalliance

By: Laura Nahmias

ALBANY—One day after Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a “framework” deal on rent regulations, 421-a and mayoral control of New York City schools, most of the details of the proposed session-ending legislation were still unavailable, and sources familiar with discussions said lawmakers are continuing to negotiate on major pieces of the tentative agreement.

According to the sources, the Assembly is trying to increase the amount of the threshold for vacancy decontrol to $3,000 a month, though a spokesman for Cuomo denied that was the case. Sources told Capital on Tuesday that amount of the negotiated increase was $2,700, up from $2,500, and that any future increases would be indexed to rise every year, based on rent increases approved by the Rent Guidelines Board.

The sources also said the Assembly is pressing for the proposed $1.3 billion property tax rebate plan to take the form of something that blends the STAR rebate with a circuit breaker, which ties rebates to income levels.

What’s being discussed, the sources said, is a plan that would grant rebates for homeowners based on three income tiers, with an upper limit of $200,000 a year. People making less than $70,000 a year would receive a rebate as a percentage of their property tax bill, while people making between $70,000 and $150,000 a year, and those making between $150,000 and $200,000 a year would receive smaller rebates.

Those discussions are expected to continue through Wednesday, meaning it could be the wee hours of Thursday morning before any bills are printed, and late Thursday or even Friday before members vote on the so-called “big ugly” final deal.

Several members of the Assembly, speaking on background, told Capital they fully expect to be in Albany Thursday.

The ongoing negotiations are seen as an attempt by Speaker Carl Heastie to placate some of his angry conference members from New York City who were not briefed before the deal was announced on Tuesday afternoon, and were initially shocked at the proposal, according to several sources.

Some of the less tenured, more idealistic members were disinclined to take the deal initially, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, said in an email to Capital.

“Disappointment with the package is widespread, but I think there is universal agreement that Heastie did everything possible in support of the Assembly’s agenda. People’s unhappiness is focused on the governor and the Senate Republicans,” Gottfried said.

“Several members—mostly freshmen—have said they couldn’t vote for the package, mainly because it does not eliminate vacancy deregulation,” he said. But those members haven’t been in state government for long, and “it takes time to understand the dynamics of Albany, and how crucial it is to the agendas of each of us that we stick together and back up our Speaker, even when we haven’t achieved much of what we want,” he said.

The reaction from many Democrats in New York City and tenant advocates has been mostly negative.

“The city of New York got hosed,” Senator Liz Krueger said in a brief phone interview Wednesday morning.

The deal, she said, is bad for tenants.

“I believe the tenant groups are right to argue this basically is a guarantee of up to another 90,000 units being lost to rent regulations in the four-year extension period,” Krueger said, adding the hardest-hit areas would be on Manhattan’s east and west sides.

A Cuomo administration spokesman said the deal would strengthen protections for tenants.

Major details of the agreement are still unknown, including how a new threshold for major capital improvements for landlords would work, and whether a six-month extension of the 421-a tax abatement program is a straight extension or hews more closely to an earlier idea proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Real Estate Board of New York said Tuesday the deal was closely aligned with what de Blasio had already proposed.

Krueger said legislative leaders still couldn’t provide answers about the future of the state’s Tenant Protection Unit, and whether the deal would curb some of office’s power to bring court cases against bad landlords.

“How can no one know those answers? It’s outrageous,” she said.

Krueger, like Gottfried, agreed that Heastie seemed to be negotiating against Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a Republican. And neither man seemed to care much for de Blasio, she said.

“This is a story of people cutting off their nose to spite their face because of personal political arguments,” Krueger said of the relationship between Cuomo and de Blasio.

“It was three men in a room and apparently two were Republicans and that was the problem,” she said sarcastically, referring to the Democratic governor and Flanagan.

Asked if she felt de Blasio had made a tactical error in supporting Senate Democrats during last year’s elections, a move that seemed to incur the wrath of the Republican majority, she replied,

“Did the mayor make errors? Everyone makes some,but it’s certainly felt like for quite awhile now, that if New York City announced the sky is blue today, Albany would put out a press release saying ‘What are they talking about, there’s a storm,’” she said. “I think that for whatever reason, Governor Cuomo and his administration actually think doing things for the City of New York is a bad idea and I don’t get it.”

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