|Espada at a rally for his "rent freeze" bill in February (file photo)|
Also making the journey to Albany? A group of city housing advocates intent on supporting an important housing bill to extend current rent stabilization laws until 2018--a lobbying effort that ultimately failed, as the bill was just a few votes short of the 32 needed to pass.
Espada missed the vote on the bill despite the fact that he is the chairman of the Senate's housing committee and happens to be the legislation's main sponsor.
"No one believed any of the stories [for why he didn't show up]," said Michael McKee, director of the Tenants PAC and the Real Rent Reform Campaign, who attended yesterday's session.
Espada said he had a family emergency, according to the New York Times. Calls and e-mails yesterday to Espada's spokesman and chief-of-staff were not returned.
"Bottom line, he wasn't there," McKee said.
The bill in question, if passed, would essentially extend the city's current rent control laws, which are set to expire in June, for another seven years. Housing advocates say the present legislation is less than perfect--for one, it doesn't repeal vacancy decontrol, the law that lets landlords hike rents on an apartment after a tenant moves out. But the need to get the laws renewed before the end of this year is an urgent one, advocates say, since the next legislative session in 2011 could very well take place in a Republican-controlled Senate.
"We will be in serious trouble," McKee said. "God only knows the kind of amendments they’ll attach to the law."
The current bill has already passed in the Assembly. At yesterday's session, it had the support of one Republican, while three Democrats were against it. Had Espada been present to vote in favor of the bill, it still would have been short of the 32 vote majority needed to pass.
Espada has long had a contentious relationship with housing advocates, who say he let many pro-tenant bills stall during his tenure as housing committee chairman. He's also been criticized for receiving a majority of his campaign contributions from landlords and real estate groups.
Last year, Espada introduced his own "rent freeze bill," which he said would cap rents for low-income New Yorkers, but which critics slammed as pro-landlord legislation in disguise.
The bill that failed to pass yesterday could get another chance in December, if Gov. Paterson decides to call another legislative session before the year's end.