Rent Laws, Education Tax Credit Among Issues Pushed in Final Weeks of Session

May 19, 2015

Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright discusses rent law reforms prior to Assembly passage of the bills
Credit Karen DeWitt

Assembly Democrats are approving a one house bill to strengthen New York City’s rent regulations in favor of tenants. The rent law renewal and many other issues, including an education tax credit and the Dream Act, are in flux as the final weeks of deal making approaches.  

The Assembly measure would repeal what’s known as vacancy decontrol. Under current law, when the market rent for that unit reaches a certain threshold, the apartment can be taken out of the rent stabilization program once a tenant leaves. It’s led to a gradual decline in housing subject to the rent laws, as the price of apartments in New York has steadily risen.  Assembly Housing Chair Keith Wright says it’s contributed to growing economic inequality.

“Our people are living in legitimate fear of losing their homes,” Wright  said. “We are smack dab in the middle of a rent crisis.”

Senate Republicans want the rent laws extended just as they are. They are also seeking to make a related property tax cap permanent. Assembly Democrats say they are not yet ready to do that.     

“That’s something that’s on their list,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Republican’s proposal. “We are going to put out for the rest of the session, what we feel that for us is important, as Assembly Democrats. And we’ll go from there.”

Speaker Carl Heastie admits that the measure will likely be weakened once it is negotiated with the Republican led State Senate, but he says right now, that’s still just “speculation”.  

The Speaker is criticizing Governor Andrew Cuomo for not pressing harder for passage of the Dream Act in the final weeks of the legislative session.

Cuomo has been campaigning for an education tax credit to benefit wealthy donors who want to give money to private school scholarships and enhanced programs at public schools . Earlier in the year, the governor had tied approval of the tax credit passage of the Dream Act, which would provide college aid to children of some immigrants.  Now the governor has uncoupled the two proposals.  Speaker Heastie was asked in a press conference, whether he thinks Cuomo should be doing more to press for passage of the Dream Act.

“We’d love to see the Dream Act passed,” said Heastie. “But I think that’s a question you need to ask the governor, why he’s not out campaigning to get the Senate to pass the Dream Act”.

Heastie says there is not enough support for the governor’s education tax credit to bring the proposal to the floor of the Assembly for a vote.  

A spokesman for the governor says Cuomo does intend to push for the Dream Act. In recent days the governor has been pressing the legislature to strengthen anti sexual assault laws on college campuses, and enact criminal justice reform.

Speaking after an event on Sunday at a Brooklyn Yeshiva to promote the education tax credit, Cuomo said the Dream Act is also a top “priority”.