Local Activists Celebrate Passage of Tenant Protection Legislation

City Hall; photo via @nycprogressives Twitter.
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.