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NYC rent law stands as legislators take 2nd crack at finding resolution

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, left, and Assemblyman Keith

Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, left, and Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-New York, talk after the Assembly voted in favor of a five day extension on New York City's rent regulations at the Capitol on Thursday, June 18, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink) Photo Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY -- Having already blown a deadline, New York lawmakers will return to the state Capitol on Tuesday to try to resolve the rent control law and perhaps cobble together last-minute deals.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement on rent control by the June 15 deadline. Instead they temporarily extended the law -- which affects some 2 million tenants in New York City and its suburbs -- until Tuesday.

Gridlocked on rent, they also didn't adjourn the 2015 legislative session last Wednesday as they were supposed to do. They also put aside hundreds of bills of local interest, such as renewing sales tax authorizations for numerous counties.

The Assembly's Democratic majority held a one-hour closed-door meeting Friday before leaving town and emerged saying it was unified against any significant changes in rent laws.

"We're all together. We're all united," Assemb. Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) said as Democrats broke for a three-day respite.

After the conference, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) left open the possibility the stalemate might not be resolved Tuesday, but added "we're hopeful."

"We just discussed certain options . . . stay tuned," Heastie said. He noted the Democrats also discussed "the choices that you do if you don't come to agreement."

Assembly Democrats want to largely renew rent control as-is while making it harder for apartments to become deregulated. The Republican-led Senate has passed an eight-year rent-law extension but included provisions to make tenants verify incomes and residency status.

"The State Senate has already acted on legislation to extend New York City's current rent laws for eight years with provisions to enforce the intent of the laws that ensure help to those who truly need it," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a statement shortly before the Senate left Thursday. "Unfortunately, the Assembly has failed to pass this bill."

Struggling to find a compromise, Cuomo and leaders discussed adding a hodgepodge of unrelated proposals to combine in a package with enough goodies for rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans to support, legislators said.

The potential mix included amendments to gun-control laws and teacher evaluations; more charter schools; more money for upstate schools and a tax deduction for donations to private schools; and property-tax adjustments to consider household incomes.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has tried to link an education tax credit to renewal of the rent law -- an idea Assembly Democrats strongly oppose. The credit would allow donors who give up to $1 million up to $750,000 in a credit on their taxes. Opponents -- including teachers unions -- say it would benefit wealthy donors and private and parochial schools.

Last week, Cuomo also proposed a $100 million boost for struggling public schools. Many saw that as his attempt to offer an incentive for approving the education tax credit.

When asked Friday about Cuomo's recent comment that he's not linking issues such as $100 million in funding for an upstate distressed schools fund to his Education Tax Credit for nonpublic schools, the speaker raised an eyebrow.

"I would like to take the governor at his word," Heastie said. "Shouldn't you?"

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