NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Time is running out for the more than 2 million tenants covered by New York City's rent laws while a deal to renew the regulations continues to elude New York state lawmakers.
The law governing the rent regulations will expire Monday if lawmakers do not act to extend them. Democratic lawmakers from New York City want the rules strengthened, but their plan has yet to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate. A vote to renew the rent law is still expected, though the length of the extension remains unsettled and big changes to the policy appear unlikely.
But NYC tenants say they want changes now, CBS2's Jessica Schneider reports. They rallied outside Gov. Cuomo's office Sunday.
"Eventually, it would be a different city here without these laws," said resident Jimmy Walker.
Rent stabilization keeps prices relativity low for 1 million city apartments.
Anne Perryman and her family have lived in their Upper West Side apartment for over 40 years.
"Those of us here love the city -- we came here for a reason," Perryman said. "This gave us the life we wanted to live."
Perryman added that it would be a shame that other people can't live in the city because of the stabilization laws.
The rent laws are the most significant of several outstanding issues facing lawmakers before they are scheduled to adjourn their 2015 session on Wednesday. A key real estate development tax break also expires this month and must be renewed if it is to continue. Several other measures await votes, including bills to address campus sexual assault, reform the juvenile justice system and ban the sale of toys with potentially toxic chemicals.
"Let's get with it," said Assemblyman Steven Englebright, a Long Island Democrat. "We didn't come here to go home empty-handed."
Waiting until the last days and hours of the session to cast votes on critical items is a longstanding tradition in Albany, but this year the work is complicated by a recent rash of corruption arrests that have highlighted Albany's backroom culture.
The leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate were forced to relinquish their positions earlier this year after being charged in separate corruption investigations. Ex-Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, is accused of taking $4 million in kickbacks. Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, R-Long Island, is charged with using his influence to extort payments and a job for his son.
The specter of additional arrests has lawmakers on edge -- and worried about how the typical end-of-session horse-trading might be viewed by federal prosecutors.
"You've got that hanging over everybody's heads," said Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse.
Negotiations were expected to continue through the weekend as lawmakers looked for a way to resolve the session's thorniest issues:
The state Assembly voted last month to extend the rent stabilization rules by four years and strengthen the regulations by making it harder for landlords to increase rent on vacant, rent-regulated units.
The Senate has yet to stake out a position. The renewal of the regulations could be tied to the extension of a cap on property taxes. The Senate voted Tuesday to make the cap permanent.
Lawmakers could vote Monday to extend the rent law as is for a short period of time -- days, perhaps, or as long as a year -- to give them more time to hash out a compromise.
A short extension would postpone the debate until the fall, or next year, when lawmakers will be up for re-election.
"I hate it," Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Harlem, said when asked his views about the idea of a six-month renewal. "It would be a total abdication of our responsibility."
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote a letter warning landlords that even if the rules do expire, he will call the Legislature back for a special session until an extension is passed and promised that it would be retroactive to June 15.
"If New York City's rent regulations were to expire it would create mayhem and chaos for both tenants and landlords, and would roil the entire real estate industry," Cuomo wrote. " ... Although June 15, 2015 is the day that several laws creating our rent stabilization system are set to expire, your legal obligations under existing leases and under the passage of the new rent stabilization program will not expire on that day; and any attempt to circumvent those responsibilities will face the full brunt of the law and all legal consequences."
WEB EXTRA: Read Cuomo's Letter To Landlords
Also linked to the debate over rent stabilization is a real estate tax break that saved New York City developers more than $1 billion last year. The incentive also expires on Monday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to tweak the program to require developers to include more affordable units -- a proposal that's been criticized by Cuomo. A straight extension of the law is looking more and more likely.
Mayor de Blasio fears that with the expiration of the rent stabilization law, landlords will jack up the rent and force people out on the street. But the rent stabilization association says it's against the law.
Rent Rules Top Agenda As New York Legislative Deadline Nears
Lawmakers have spent little time addressing ethics issues this year, one that saw the arrests of former Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican. Proposals to close a campaign finance loophole that allows businesses to pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns faded quickly.
"New Yorkers looking at their state government have gone from disillusionment to disappointment to despair," said Michael Kink, a liberal advocate who leads the Strong Economy for All Coalition. "We're not talking about the substantive ethical and campaign finance reform changes that could turn things around."
Campus Sexual Assault
One of Cuomo's top priorities for the year is a bill to impose a new sexual assault policy on the state's private universities. The policy -- which was implemented at public colleges last year -- includes a new definition of sexual consent requiring clear, affirmative agreement between sexual partners. It also sets out a victim's bill of rights and new training for law enforcement, students and faculty.
The bill has been hung up over concerns that it might create unintended consequences, but Cuomo said he is optimistic a deal can be reached.
"I would be very, very disappointed if we didn't get it done," Cuomo said. "I'm pushing very hard."
Cuomo also wants lawmakers to end the state's practice of automatically prosecuting and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-old offenders as adults. Currently only New York and North Carolina have such policies. But the proposal worries some local officials who say it could lead to sharply higher costs for juvenile detention and staffing.
Legislation to ban the use of microbeads has passed the Assembly but not the Senate. The beads are a common ingredient in cosmetics and personal care products and are a leading cause of plastic pollution in lakes and rivers.
A bill to phase out the use of certain chemicals in toys also awaits a vote in the Senate. The bill, which has passed the Assembly, is opposed by toy manufacturers who say they already must abide by federal regulations. Despite the bill having 42 sponsors in the 63-member Senate, no vote has been scheduled. Advocates brought a giant inflatable duck to the Capitol last week to urge passage of the bill, which never got a vote last year in the Senate.
"There is time to get it done," said Sen. Phil Boyle, R-Long Island. "This is the closest we've ever come to getting this bill passed."
Mixed Martial Arts
New York is now the only state to prohibit professional mixed martial arts bouts, a distinction those involved in the sport have long tried to end. The latest effort to legalize MMA bouts emerged last week. In response to critics who say it is too violent and dangerous, supporters included in the legislation a fund to help cover the medical costs of fighters with brain injuries.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.