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Cuomo, lawmakers reach deal on rent control, tax cap, tax rebate

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks during a news conference in Manhattan on May 11, 2015. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

ALBANY - Ending a standoff by compromising, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced agreements Tuesday on extending rent control and a statewide property-tax cap, creating a new property-tax rebate and forgoing a tax credit for donations to nonpublic schools.

Seven days after the 2015 legislative session was supposed to end, Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said they reached a tentative deal to settle high-profile stalemates that had thrown an already tumultuous session into overtime.

Rank-and-file legislators were expected to vote on the agreement Wednesday.

When they do, it should bring to a close a turbulent session that featured the previous leaders of the Assembly and Senate indicted on corruption charges, the ascension of two new house leaders in mid-session, and the governor's drop in the polls to an all-time low. It was marked by a lull of legislative activity from April, when the budget was adopted, until the flurry of last-minute deals.

"This was a very difficult year," Cuomo said. "There were extraordinary developments."

In the end, the leaders returned to the Albany tradition of closing the session by forging a "big ugly," a deal on a hodgepodge of obtainable wins for the governor, the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

These include a four-year extension of rent control (until 2019) and the state's property-tax cap (until 2020), a $1.3 billion property-tax rebate initiative with checks arriving in mailboxes before the 2016 elections, a temporary special prosecutor to handle cases involving violent police-civilian clashes, and a one-year extension of the law that gives Mayor Bill de Blasio control of New York City schools.

Assembly Democrats defeated a proposal favored by Cuomo and Senate Republicans to create a tax credit for private-school donors. Instead, the sides agreed to a one-time, $250 million increase in funding to nonpublic schools.

Flanagan said the compromise was necessary "because last time I checked nobody gets everything they want in government."

Heastie got the rent control extension -- affecting about 1 million apartments in New York City and its suburbs, including Nassau County -- and a higher threshold for allowing some apartments to be deregulated. But the deal didn't end the deregulation process, which some Democrats and tenants wanted.

"We did the best we could," Heastie said at a news conference with Flanagan and Cuomo. "It gives renters some relief."

One group, the Alliance for Tenant Power, blasted the agreement and the governor. It said allowing some apartments to become deregulated amounted to a "massive giveaway to landlords."

The compromise also includes the appointment of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman as a special prosecutor -- for one year only -- to handle cases involving police-civilian clashes. Cuomo indicated this isn't a long-term solution to the issue sparked by the death of Eric Garner and he wants to tackle the subject again next year. Senate Republicans had opposed the idea of taking away such cases from local district attorneys.

Some issues went by the wayside. Omitted were any gun-control amendments that Republicans had advocated and a capital plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The deal also excluded Cuomo's initiative to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18. The governor said he wanted to tackle the issue next year but, in the meantime, he will begin an administrative process of moving 16- and 17-year-olds out of adult prisons.

Flanagan and Heastie are both newly minted leaders -- each having taken over earlier this year after criminal indictments forced the resignations of previous leaders. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). Each has pleaded not guilty.

Cuomo praised Heastie and Flanagan for being "tenacious," but also, in the end, "prudent enough to arrive at a solution."

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