By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — As the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline Monday evening, Gov. David Paterson, state legislators and city officials struggled to put together a deal that would protect artists who are living illegally in industrial lofts.
The new Loft Law would protect thousands of loft tenants across the city from eviction and rent hikes. The law, which tenant activists have spent years fighting for, would also force landlords to bring their spaces up to fire and safety codes if people are living there.
It appeared that Paterson would sign the Loft Law expansion as recently as last week, but he appeared to cool to the bill after Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city and federal officials voiced their strong opposition. Bloomberg argued in a letter to Paterson on Monday that the new Loft Law would displace the city’s struggling manufacturing businesses while disproportionately benefiting landlords.
“This bill would hurt our economy by driving manufacturers out of New York City, reducing the number of good-paying jobs available to New Yorkers at precisely the time we need them the most,” Bloomberg wrote to Paterson.
Bill Hall, 61, a TriBeCa sculptor and co-chairman of the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants advocacy group, wrote Paterson a detailed rebuttal of the mayor’s concerns on Monday, arguing that just as the original Loft Law has helped the city grow, the new version of the law would do the same.
“There is no credible evidence that loft tenants have driven out manufacturing,” Hall wrote. “Loft tenants move into vacant spaces, not occupied ones. The vast supply of vacant commercial/industrial space belies the city’s argument.”
Still, after the city's objections, Paterson appeared close to vetoing the bill late Monday afternoon, Hall and another person familiar with the Loft Law discussions said. The Senate passed a bill that included a brief extender of the old version of the Loft Law Monday afternoon, implying that the Senate did not expect the new version to go through.
The Loft Law negotiations continued late Monday night. Even if Paterson vetoes the current version of the bill, the parties could still agree on a revised version of the Loft Law in the future.
Paterson's office did not respond to requests for comment.