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Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer is a public champion of tenants rights, but his bid to become New York's first Puerto Rican mayor is being significantly bolstered by real estate industry money.

A City Limits analysis of Ferrer's campaign filings shows that the B.P. has taken $20,000 in campaign support from the city's top landlord lobbying group since 1994. Other real estate interests–management companies, developers, property owners and real estate lawyers–chipped in at least another $50,000 between January and August of 1996.

As of July 15, Ferrer had raised a total of $1.7 million. The next filing for mayoral candidates is January 15.

“We are very disturbed by some of the money and some of the positions Freddy has taken,” said Michael McKee of the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition.

Despite taking the contributions, Ferrer has said he supports the extension of rent regulations for tenants and has blasted Republicans in the state Senate for threatening to block the renewal of rent regulations in Albany this spring.

“For any responsible elected official to propose ending rent protections without also proposing a specific alternative housing plan for the thousands of New York families that would be dispossessed is irresponsible in the extreme,” Ferrer said in early December after State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno vowed to annihilate rent regulation.

Ferrer sides with landlord groups in supporting a measure, opposed by most tenant organizations, that would require tenants to make a deposit on unpaid rent before they could have their cases heard in housing court. The city's top landlord lobbying group, the Rent Stabilization Association, has long pushed for mandatory rent deposits. The RSA has given Ferrer $14,000 since 1994. The Neighborhood Preservation Political Action Fund, which is closely associated with the RSA, gave Ferrer another $6,000 during the same period.

According to state filings, neither RSA nor NPPAF has contributed to any of the other likely Democratic challengers, including Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Brooklyn Councilman Sal Albanese or the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Unless he is elected mayor, Ferrer cannot wield much influence over the future of rent regulation. Still, lobbyists for property owners have sought to weaken Democrats' united support of rent regulation by encouraging them to support decontrol of some high- rent apartments–and to pass the rent deposit rule in the state legislature. To that end, RSA and others have recently pumped about $125,000 into city Democrats' campaign funds, much of it to black and Latino outer-borough politicians. [For more, see our coverage in the January issue of City Limits magazine, on newsstands this week]

The Bronx Democratic party and its boss, Assemblyman Roberto Ramirez, have received about $33,000 from the RSA and other real estate interests over the past 18 months.

Calls to Ferrer's campaign office were not returned.

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