Your move, Senate: Cuomo dares legislators to pass rent reform bills

Senate, Assembly say they are ready to work with the governor
By Georgia Kromrei and Kathryn Brenzel | June 05, 2019 06:20PM

From left: Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and New York State assembly member Carl Heastie (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

From left: Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (Credit: Getty Images and Wikipedia)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday that he is ready to sign all nine rent regulation reform bills — if the state Senate can just agree on them.

“The senate said yesterday that they have the votes to pass the nine rent reform bills,” the governor said. “If they do not pass the bills today it means they cannot, and New Yorkers should know the respective positions so we can pass a new law before the expiration of the existing rent law on June 15.”

The governor was responding to a statement put out by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Tuesday, which indicated that after a “long discussion within the Senate Majority Conference, it’s clear” that the upper house supports all nine bills. Through a spokesperson on Tuesday, Cuomo expressed doubt that the Senate had the necessary support to pass the bills.

Wednesday’s statement took the posturing a step further. Minutes later, in a brief joint statement, Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reiterated their readiness to work with the governor on the rent laws package.

“The senate and assembly together are ready to work with the governor to deliver the strongest rent package ever to meet the needs of tenants across the State of New York,” the statement said.

Sen. Julia Salazar doubts Cuomo’s sincerity.

“He’s trying to pit members of our conference against each other in an effort to obstruct the passage of the bills. So it seems pretty disingenuous of him to say this,” Salazar said. “Having a tantrum in public isn’t going to get him what he wants.”

Jay Martin, executive director of landlord group Community Housing Improvement Program, said his organization doesn’t believe there are “enough votes to pass the bills in either house and will continue to be working to educate elected officials over the next few days.”

The statement comes after a radio interview last week, when the governor threatened to veto the rent package if the Senate and Assembly left him out of the negotiations.

“Negotiate a package, send it to the governor, don’t include him,” Cuomo said in the interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “O.K. Then I won’t sign the package. And then you have no rent reform laws.”

Another source indicated that elected officials are moving to shift blame for the lack of progress on the bill package. The state rent regulation laws expire in 10 days and the end of the legislative session is slated for June 19.

The series of dueling statements began shortly after massive protests broke out at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Tenant advocates swarmed the Senate and Assembly chambers and the governor’s office, calling on elected officials to pass the nine bills, which include eliminating vacancy bonuses, vacancy decontrol and programs that allow landlords to increase rents through building and apartment renovations. By the end of the day, 61 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Three protestors were charged with assault, state police said.