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Halperin named head of DHCR.

Industry groups were uniformly pleased with the governor's choice of State Senator Donald A. Halperin to be Commissioner of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, made last week. Halperin was cited as being knowledgeable with a reputation for doing his homework.

Jack Freund, acting president of the Rent Stabilization Association said, "We're pleased that someone has been appointed who is knowledgeable on the issues, someone who is open on the issues and someone who is reasonable."

Sen. Halperin was pleased with the turn of events that has propelled him from a primary loss in the race for New York City Public Advocate to a State Commissioner during a telephone interview last week.

"Housing has always been an interest of mine," he said, noting he did not seek the job but was ready for a change. 'I have made comments over the years that if I ever became a commissioner it would be either insurance or housing. This is a real interest."

The job entails a cabinet level position and as head of DHCR Halperin will also sit on the boards of the Housing Finance Agency - which issues bonds and provides funds and grants for limited and non-profit housing - SONY which provides mortgage financing and mortgage insurance commitments and the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation.

As State Director of Housing, he will have oversight over HFA, SONYMA, the New York Mortgage Loan Enforcement Administration Agency, the New York State Project Finance Agency, and other state agencies and public corporations involved in housing.

Sen. Halperin has been a Democratic State Senator from Brooklyn since 1971 when at only 24-years old and a new graduate of Brooklyn Law School, he defeated a 26-year incumbent. He departs the State legislature as the third most senior Democrat and the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Halperin was prepared for a new challenge, however, and spent the summer campaigning for Public Advocate in a six field race that was won by Mark Green.

Dan Margulies, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program CHIP) observed Halperin will be the first politician running the agency in many years. "I hope he will be sensitive to the agency's various constituencies," Margulies added. "We've had a succession of bureaucrats who weren't responsive. A former elected official may be more willing to listen to his public."

Sen. Halperin does not seem to be deterred by what many consider the thankless job of running the State's housing facilities, as well as serving as chief administrator of the rent stabilization system.

"I'm a glutton for punishment," the Senator explained. "I'm going from the frying pan into the fire, but I don't intend to get burned."

Over the years, he has developed experience while sitting on a variety of housing oriented committees and task forces. He has also taken on other challenges geared toward housing issues on a number of levels. Additionally, he has worked on both insurance and criminal justice matters.

The Senator's Brooklyn district office has had its share of both owners and tenants looking for relief from the housing bureaucracy. "I know there are problems there and we know it is difficult to deal with [DHCR]," he admitted.

That district has one of the highest concentrations of Mitchell-Lama projects in the state, including Trump Village and Kings Bay. Sen. Halperin said he has watched some of those turn private and has attended hearings on the oversight of both those and various other state managed buildings.

Sen. Halperin recently chaired an advisory committee on the preparation of a Land Development Guide for localities to simplify and clarify regulations and procedures pertaining to land development and the environment that was primarily geared to housing.

In 1986,. Sen. Halperin was named co-chairman of the Senate Democratic Task on the Financing of Affordable Housing and this past year worked with legislation on reverse mortgages.

On all of these projects he has worked very closely with the last several DHCR commissioners and a number of staffers. "I'm no stranger to the agency," he said.

Since his appointment, the Senator said he has been reading a number of memos on different issues --"some of which I asked for and some of which I didn't"-- and meeting and talking with the DHCR staff.

Sen. Halperin also brings with him an understanding of housing from the developers point of view, since he has been of counsel to the real estate firm Seiden, Stempel, Bennett and D'Agostino for nearly a decade.

The Manhattan law firm handles residential work, including the representation of co-ops and owners, some DHCR harassment cases, and abatement initiatives such as 421-a, 1-51, and the industrial and commercial incentive program (ICIP). Through the clients, Sen. Halperin explained, he has learned to know the "attitudes" of developers who need to move projects along.

Jay Gordon Seiden, a partner in the firm, declared, "It's a wonderful appointment and he's going to do a great job. He's had a unique combination of talents. He knows all of the legislators, and has been here for 9 years representing the owners' side - and that's unusual."

Margulies observed that as a Democratic State Senator, Halperin was not a supporter of real estate industry causes but now, his constituency and responsibilities will be different. "I don't think anyone has ever categorized him as an anti-owner idealogue. He has a reputation for doing his homework and always had an excellent staff."

Former DHCR Commissioner Angelo J. Aponte has already left the agency to work for M.R. Beal, an investment banking firm.

Sen. Halperin will start at his new job on Oct. 25 and until then will be putting his campaign "in order," closing his Albany and Brooklyn Senate offices and cleaning out his desk at Seiden Stempel.

"I still have to find out where the Men's Room is as well as many other things," he laughed, referring to the numerous new offices he will inhabit. While the main DHCR office is in the Bronx, Halperin will also have an office in Albany where he expects to have weekly meetings with senior staff members. There is also a place to "hang my hat" in the State Capitol building itself when present for meetings with the governor and former legislative colleagues.

SONYMA and the HFA are being combined administratively and that will entail another office on Lexington Avenue.

Since the appointment was made too close to the November election date for a candidate to come out of the petition gathering and primary process, the Brooklyn County Committee will decide who the new candidate will be - a process Halperin confessed he will stay out of - and the governor will set the date for a special election.

As a native-born Brooklynite, Sen. Halperin still lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, his daughter, a senior in high school and a college age son.

The nearly-new commissioner is in great demand these days and is being courted by all sides. "We'll be seeking a meeting soon," said Margulies. "I think everyone in the industry would like to talk to him before the bureaucrats get him. It's not the tenants' groups that are a problem. The danger every commissioner faces is the permanent bureaucracy which doesn't want to rock the boat."

Margulies said he'd offer the new Commissioner Halperin the same advice that he offered his predecessors: "He should recognize at the outset that the rent laws can't be administered as written and are not going to change until a housing commissioner stands up to the governor and says so. No one
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Title Annotation:New York State Senator Donald A. Halperin chosen Commissioner of Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 13, 1993
Words:1255
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