Local Activists Celebrate Passage of Tenant Protection Legislation

City Hall; photo via @nycprogressives Twitter.

City Hall; photo via @nycprogressives Twitter.

Community advocates gathered at City Hall yesterday to celebrate the passage of the 12th and final bill in a package of tenant protection measures.

The legislation, sponsored by Council member Stephen Levin, sets up a Real Time Enforcement Unit within the Department of Buildings. Oftentimes, tenants complain that their complaints called into 311 are only addressed by the city days and weeks later. This bill, according to a press release from the Progressive Caucus, will ensure a swift response, “to hazardous complaints related to work completed in occupied dwellings.”

Eleven other bills were enacted in August, two of which were sponsored by Lower East Side Council members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin. Taken together, the new laws strengthen “safe construction” procedures, mandate greater oversight of construction in rent stabilized buildings and make it more difficult for bad landlords to harass tenants.

The bills were championed by the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition, which includes several local organizations such as Cooper Square Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, CAAAV and Good Old Lower East Side.

In a press release put out by the coalition yesterday, local resident Ted Osbourne explained why he thinks the legislation approved yesterday is so important:

In the face of powerful, bottomless pocket landlords, organized tenants can envision and fight for laws that stop landlords’ relentless use of aggressive construction to harass tenants. That’s what happened when my amiable community of neighbors was decimated by evictions and buyouts. After an evening of poring over the DOB website and seeing how ridiculously slow their response time was to complaints, we reached out to the Cooper Square Committee. Together with tenants of other landlords, we met for months conceiving a bill — “Real Time Enforcement” — that would create a targeted unit in DOB that would quickly respond to violation complaints. It was the power of organized tenants, advocates and progressive Council members that made our idea into law.

While the City Council has been acting to give tenants more rights, city and state agencies are stepping up their enforcement efforts. Local landlord Steve Croman will soon go to prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges. Just yesterday, ICON Realty Management agreed to a $500,000 settlement with the state Attorney General after the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force investigated harassment claims against the NYC property owner.


City Council Approves 11 Tenant Protection Bills

Photo via City Council member Rosie Mendez's Twitter feed.

Photo via City Council member Rosie Mendez’s Twitter feed.

The City Council yesterday approved 11 bills meant to combat harassment of rent stabilized tenants. The legislative package was championed by a coalition known as Stand for Tenant Safety, which includes several Lower East Side member organizations.

Among the proposals winning Council approval:

–A “Safe Construction Bill of Rights,” legislation sponsored by local Council member Rosie Mendez. It requires landlords to notify tenants before undertaking significant renovation projects.

–A bill from Lower East Side Council member Margaret Chin that requires the Department of Buildings to audit 25% of professionally certified applications for rent regulated buildings and affordable housing projects.

Other bills make it easier for tenants to prove harassment, prevent landlords from visiting apartments at off hours without permission and make it possible for victims of harassment to recover damages and reasonable attorney fees.

In a statement, Council member Mendez said, “I am proud to stand with the STS Coalition and my Council colleagues. For far too long some of the city’s worst property owners have used devious, despicable tactics, as well as construction renovations to harass and intimidate tenants.”

Council member Chin said, “No landlord should get away with harassing low-income residents, working families and seniors on fixed incomes through illegal construction in an attempt to drive them from their homes and their neighborhoods. By requiring our City to set limits on the self-certification of buildings by landlords with a history of tormenting their tenants, our City is wielding a new tool to fight tenant harassment, construction damage, and displacement.”

Local groups that are part of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition include: Cooper Square Committee, Asian Americans for Equality, CAAAV and Good Old Lower East Side.


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