Rent-control deal poses conflict of interest for Linda Rosenthal

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Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie this week named Linda Rosenthal to chair the new Housing Committee, which gets her an added $12,500 stipend on top of the new $142,000 base salary — and also sets up a blatant conflict of interest, since she’s lived in a rent-stabilized Upper West Side apartment since 1984.

What, did you think rent control was only supposed to help the poor? Fact is, most beneficiaries are well above the poverty line: You typically have to pay someone off to get a rate-stabilized unit.

We can’t say exactly what rent Rosenthal pays, but the math (assuming her landlord hiked it the maximum allowed amount these last 38 years) strongly suggests that it’s well under half the area’s market rate, which Renthop lists at $4,595 a month ($4,250 for a one-bedroom).

This, by the way, is another perverse impact of the rent laws: The biggest winners are people who never move (or legally inherit “rights” from a longtime tenant), even if they have a unit far larger than they still need. Newcomers to the city, and growing families that need more space, are the losers, because “affordability” is largely reserved for long-timers.

Since her new committee oversees the rent laws as well as all other state housing policy, Rosenthal’s conflict is obvious: She has a naked self-interest, for example, in opposing any “luxury decontrol” reform that would prevent higher earners from benefiting from the rent laws.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Rosenthal was tapped by Heastie to chair the new Housing Committee.
Hans Pennink/AP

Asked for comment, Rosenthal found the point laughable, noting, “Everybody has to live somewhere” — so any Housing chair faces some conflict of interest.

Except that most people don’t have anywhere near as stark a conflict, since they don’t benefit to the tune of two or three grand a month on their housing costs because of state policy.

Notably, New York Housing Court judges who own or have any interest of any nature whatsoever in real estate get assigned to some other civil court. Members of the city Rent Guidelines Board (which sets the maximum allowed hikes for rent-stabilized units) can’t own or manage any rental property covered by the RGB’s orders.

Heck, politicians now aren’t even required to disclose whether they benefit from the rent laws, though City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) proposes just that.

Then again, ethical rules of any kind for New York state politicians are few and far between; no one expects Gov. Kathy Hochul’s replacement for the main state ethics panel to be much less of a joke than the one it replaced. That’s why it’s the feds who pursue nearly all corruption cases in New York.

In that light, Rosenthal is entirely right to laugh off complaints about her conflicts: Self-dealing is how Albany rolls.

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