Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pedro Espada: Renters' Public Enemy #1

Millions of New Yorkers better take notice. Renters who were hoping for reform under that new Democratic majority have Senator Pedro Espada to thank for extinguishing all hopes of getting something done this year. Sen. Hiram Monserrate also shares in the blame, but if you have to give top billing to one of them, it would be Espada. Good government groups have been up in arms over his refusal to follow campaign finance laws and now we have a lead on why. The most powerful lobbying group, the real estate industry, has a very good reason to financially support Pedro and it is one he'd rather not talk about.

From The NY Times:

In the weeks before Mr. Espada bolted, Senate Democrats were poised to vote on the most significant expansion of rent regulation and tenant rights in a quarter-century, including legislation that could have cost the owners of the more than one million rent-stabilized apartments in New York City and its suburbs billions of dollars on their investments.

Mr. Espada, as chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, had assured Democratic leaders he would take up the bill, already passed by the Assembly, but repeatedly blocked it, citing technical objections and scheduling issues. Last Monday, after he defected to the Republicans and ascended to the Senate presidency, he announced he was opposed to the legislation.

His move has all but assured that the bill will die this year.

“It’s dead,” Michael McKee, a leading advocate for tenants, declared last week.

Democrats said Mr. Espada’s actions raise questions about whether he received financial support from real estate interests as he contemplated his switch of allegiance to the Republicans. As chairman of the Housing Committee, he would be expected to be a primary beneficiary of contributions from the industry, which is among the most powerful in Albany.
But no one knows how much money he got from them, because Espada shuns his responsibility from the law (I wonder where he learned that one from). All he cares about is himself and how much money he can make, presumably before he gets kicked out of office, but I'm sure there's a lobbying group that'll love to have such a sniveling snake as he.

Now Monserrate presumably has said he's a big champion of vacancy decontrol (an important part of tenant reformers goals) and if he does stick to such a principal, that could be one of the reasons he came back to the Democratic caucus after a week. Yet if he had done five minutes of homework, he would have seen that his "friend" had been stalling rent reforms for the entire session this year. It wouldn't have taken a rocket scientist to figure out Espada wasn't a friend of the renters in his district or any other in the state.

Monserrate will be gone if and when he is convicted of slashing his girlfriend in his face but Espada thus far has not been charged with any crime (though he is being investigated for several). It is Mr. Espada that we must focus on, because his lust for power can do far more damage than I believe Monserrate ever dreamed of doing.