In a follow up to a story you first heard on NY1, Assembly Democrats maintain that they they are not the ones responsible for a 2010 carve-out law that protected two tenants in Chelsea. The heated negotiations at the time even resulted in a cursing tirade caught on camera from embattled Assembly Housing Chair Vito Lopez. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
In 2010, the legislature was negotiating an expansion of the state's loft law, which wound up including a amendment that applied to only these three blocks in Chelsea. That law, which offers protections to tenants in former industrial space apartments, is now the subject of a lawsuit.
"This is just another example of how all these side deals go on to bring special favors to individuals instead of out in the open in full public view for the public interest," said Dick Dadey of Citizens Union.
The sponsors of the bill were Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who is now embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is accused of covering up the initial allegations and using a taxpayer-funded payout to settle them. Lopez then went back into his state office and allegedly harassed women again.
As for the loft amendment, a spokesman for Speaker Silver said, "At the request of the then-Senate Majority, an amendment to the legislation was negotiated to make sure that the new loft law did not leave out long-standing units being used as residences."
Another person familiar with the negotiations said the carve out was requested by State Sen. Tom Duane, which Duane denied.
"Absolutely, totally and completely ridiculous," Duane said.
Duane said he was trying to extend protections to a much broader group of tenants and the carve out was not from him.
"It was an Assembly bill," he said. "It came out of the Assembly Housing Committee at the highest levels of the Assembly leadership."
During the negotiations, Lopez was caught on camera in an expletive-laced tirade.
"It's fascinating to see this be revealed but not surprising because it points out this culture of secrecy that exists in Albany," Dadey said.
"Obviously, anytime you're talking about specific blocks, it gets to be legislative sausage-making," said Micah Lasher, who negotiated the carve out for the city. "But I would add, I think it's important to say that this was not a case where folks were operating from a place of bad intentions."
According to people close to the speaker, it's standard for the speaker to put his name on a chapter amendment bill along with the relevant committee chair as sponsors. But in the senate, the sponsor was Sen. Martin Dilan, a Lopez ally, and not the housing chair, who was Pedro Espada.