With the budget issue resolved, the Legislature should turn its attention to three measures requiring immediate attention. About $1 billion is at stake for New York City in a needless debate over a plan to put a filtration plant in the Bronx. Car buyers throughout the state will lose hundreds of millions of dollars if the Legislature doesn’t end vicarious liability for auto leasing companies. The renewal of rent regulation with luxury decontrol provisions intact would help the economy for years to come.
Federal regulators are requiring the city to build a plant to filter water from the Croton reservoir system, and the least expensive option, by some $1 billion, is under a golf course in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. To make the disruption more palatable, the city is pledging $43 million for improving the park and $200 million for improving facilities throughout the borough.
Local Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz has convinced Speaker Sheldon Silver to block the needed legislation. His reasoning is very confused, but he seems to believe that the improvements won’t actually happen. The speaker knows the best interests of the city lie in approving the Van Cortlandt site.
Under archaic laws that exist in New York and only two other states, a company providing a car lease can be held liable for accidents caused by the driver. Since the trial lawyers discovered these provisions several years ago, lawsuits and judgments against leasing companies have soared. In response, the three largest leasing companies-owned by General Motors, Ford and J.P. Morgan Chase-will stop writing leases in the state within weeks. Others are likely to follow the Big 3.
Leasing is less expensive than purchasing outright for many drivers, and an option that New York consumers should have. Holding the leasing companies liable is the epitome of unfairness. The law should be repealed.
The city’s system of rent regulation comes up for renewal on June 15. Regrettably, the political climate precludes a fundamental rethinking of the system. But it is vitally important that the law be extended, including the provisions that provide for the decontrol of luxury apartments that become vacant.
The most egregious defect of the system is that most of the benefits flow to well-off New Yorkers in Manhattan. Luxury vacancy decontrol is slowly correcting this flaw and bringing billions of dollars of badly needed housing investment into the city.