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De Blasio lobbies Albany for rent laws, marijuana legalization

The mayor also said President Trump's comments on London Mayor Sadiq Khan were "petty" and "nasty."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown at City Hall

Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown at City Hall on Nov. 16, 2018, lobbied state legislators on Monday for rent control and marijuana legalization.   Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Mayor Bill de Blasio lobbied state legislators Monday to strengthen protections for tenants in a rent control bill now being negotiated, among other city issues in the final days of the session.

The mayor is also pushing for the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. Contrary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the mayor said the bill could still be done this legislative session, but admitted creating a safe and fair system is more important than legalizing recreational use this year.

De Blasio said it’s essential that marijuana licenses be dispensed so that lower-income neighborhoods that bore the brunt of criminal enforcement of marijuana laws for decades now benefit the most. That’s a major sticking point among Albany legislators, many of whom don’t want big corporations — often tobacco companies — to control the market.

“I am hopeful,” de Blasio said of the bill’s chances of approval this session, but “I know it’s far from a sure thing.”

De Blasio also wants a clear definition of “dangerousness” as a threshold in the state’s new measures to eliminate bail in most criminal cases. Traditionally, poor defendants unable to pay for bail have spent lengthy stays in jails awaiting trial for nonviolent or relatively minor crimes. The mayor, however, said judges need a tool to hold the most dangerous suspects who are at risk of fleeing before their court date.

“There are times when a judge sees a pattern” of flight risk, de Blasio said, but “judges’ hands are tied … they need more tools.”

The state legislative session is scheduled to end June 19.

The mayor’s priority is to reauthorize the state rent laws. The laws hold some rents in the city to levels that are low enough to be paid by middle-class families. The laws also protect tenants rights. One proposal de Blasio favors would encourage landlords to raise rents for repairs or needed improvements, but the rent increase would have to end once the work is paid for. 

“I’m sick of seeing tenants gouged,” de Blasio said.

Several bills now in negotiations between legislative leaders and Cuomo tackle that issue.

De Blasio also said he wants the State Legislature to empower the city to use “design-build” contracting, which Cuomo has used to save hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs in state projects. Under design-build, a general contract is awarding for a project to design and then build the project to those designs. That saves time and money from having to award multiple contracts and avoids conflicts between the designing company and the construction company.

There is support in the Legislature for the measure.

De Blasio also said his experience and communications technology have allowed him to run the city while he is running for president. Then the Democrat criticized Republican President Donald Trump for insulting London Mayor Sadiq Khan after Khan, a Muslim, said Trump doesn’t deserve red-carpet treatment this week in his visit to the United Kingdom. Khan called Trump “one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat” from the far right.

Trump tweeted that Khan “is a stone cold loser.”

De Blasio called it an attack on all Muslims.

“'It's petty, it's nasty,” de Blasio said of Trump. “His insecurities as a person make us insecure as a nation.”


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