A Tenant Advocate Revels in Espada’s Problems

ALBANY—The pressure mounting on State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. coincides with a push by tenant advocates to have his chamber adopt various measures to strengthen tenants' rights. They're not exactly sympathetic to his situation.

"Obviously Pedro's in trouble, and he's in trouble in the long range," said Mike McKee, treasurer of the Tenants PAC. Espada Jr. managed to get the chairmanship of the housing committee as he and others stood in the way of Malcolm Smith's rise to the majority leader's office, but he has never been seen as a friend of tenants.

McKee said he was incredibly skeptical Tuesday when Espada showed up at a press conference in which 16 other senators called for an immediate passage of several measures that have already been approved by the Assembly. Two bills remain before the Housing Committee.

"People were very cynical and very suspicious of him when he came to our rally," McKee said. "I said, ‘Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. We'll see if this is a sincere gesture on his part.' He dispelled those doubts in a few hours with what he said to Crain's."

"Pedro is a major impediment, but in a way he's irrelevant," McKee continued. "Our real enemies are Carl Kruger and Jeff Klein. I think it's amazing that Pedro is so dumb that he would make a fiery speech making no commitments, and then tell a reporter that he's not going to have time to move the bills."

He also did not believe Espada would be able to bring his elections filings up to date by Monday; Smith has promised "immediate action" if he does not do so by Monday.

"All I can tell you is it's not going to be a problem for Senator Espada," his attorney Daniel Pagano just told me by phone. If he does, he's still facing investigations by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.

Let's say he doesn't make it, and Smith chooses to remove him from the committee's chair. I asked State Senator Bill Perkins what would happen.

"The world doesn't fall apart," he said.

Here's what McKee had to say:

"Ultimately, I hope he gets defeated for re-election, and somebody decent takes that seat. It's an absolute scandal that someone in his position is allowed to get away with what he's getting away with," he said. "This is a guy who does have a history of pulling the stake out of his heart and rising from the dead, and he probably thinks he can do it again. He probably thinks he can do it again."