New York, NY — Members of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council and the Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) coalition gathered today at City Hall to release a report card revealing the lack luster implementation of legislation passed by the Caucus last year to protect tenants against predatory landlords that use construction as a tactic to harass tenants. The bills were aimed to reform practices at the Department of Buildings and the Department of Finance to ensure greater protections like tenant protection plans, a dedicated office to advocate for tenants, and a real-time enforcement unit, as well as an expanded definition of distressed buildings subject to foreclosure and tax lien reform.
In 2017, the Progressive Caucus introduced and brought to passage twelve pieces of legislation in coordination with the citywide STS coalition of grassroots tenant organizations and legal service groups to provide greater protection for tenants suffering from construction harassment.
Now, over one year later, the STS Coalition is releasing this report card based on evaluation of the implementation of the 12 local laws based on timeliness, capacity building, transparency, and effectiveness. The experiences of the grassroots and legal organizations that make up the Coalition working on the front lines with tenants helped to determine the grades assigned to each law that the Department of Finance and the Department of Buildings are legally obligated to implement. Based on the report card, the Coalition has determined that the City of New York has failed to fully implement the laws and must do better in protecting tenants against predatory landlords that use construction as a tactic to harass tenants.
“I applaud the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition for their steadfast commitment to improving the culture at the Department of Buildings. The STS legislation passed in 2017 is essential to protecting tenants impacted by construction, and this report card reflects the serious work that remains to be done. The Office of the Tenant Advocate is critical to the success of the STS package of bills. We are incredibly grateful for the work and commitment of OTA Director Byron Munoz, but the OTA needs and deserves a major increase in resources and staffing. Construction as harassment is widespread in New York City, and the DOB must take the lead in protecting tenants against predatory landlords,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Member of the Progressive Caucus and one of the original sponsors of the Stand for Tenant Safety Package.
“One of the major reasons we worked tirelessly to pass the Stand For Tenant Safety laws was to give the City of New York proper tools to stop bad landlords from neglecting their properties and putting tenants at risk,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus and one of the original sponsors of the Stand for Tenant Safety Package. “We passed these laws to ensure repeat offenders who don’t pay fines were punished. It is a shame that a year later the City is yet to begin implementing these laws. How are we supposed to help tenants if the laws we pass to improve their quality of life are not being enforced? I urge the administration to make the STS laws a priority and put them into full effect in order to protect New York City’s renters.”
“We worked hand-in-hand with housing advocates to pass sweeping reforms to the Department of Buildings to hold predatory landlords accountable for tenant harassment, but that was only the first step,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Member of the Progressive Caucus and one of the original sponsors of the Stand for Tenant Safety Package. “In order for us to know that these reforms are being fully implemented and changing the lives of families across this City, we need strong enforcement and real transparency. The law I co-sponsored, Local Law No. 149, mandates greater City oversight over self-certified applications for construction, especially in buildings owned by landlords with a history of harassment. We urge this Administration to do its part to make sure that more unscrupulous landlords like Jared Kushner, who lied on applications about the presence of rent-regulated tenants and drove them out through construction harassment, are held accountable.”
“When Stand for Tenant Safety legislation was passed, it was a huge win for tenant groups that had fought for these reforms for years. Now we must ensure those laws are followed,” said Council Member Keith Powers, Vice-Chair of the Progressive Caucus. “As a long-time tenant advocate, I believe the City must work immediately to protect tenants by fully implementing our legislation.”
“This new report card details what we’ve already been hearing from residents throughout our districts – the city is not providing the enforcement we need for our tenant protections laws to be effective,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera, Member of the Progressive Caucus. “It’s been two years since these game-changing laws passed, and still a third of these measures received a “D” or “F” grade for enforcement. That is unacceptable, and I call on this administration to provide the resources our tenants need, including providing higher staffing levels for the Real Time Enforcement Unit and the Office of the Tenant Advocate,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera.
“We celebrated when these laws were passed because we expected the City to put the full weight of this administration behind enforcement of tenant protections,” said Gregoria Fernandez, a tenant from 272 Stagg Street in Brooklyn. “Today, we’re protesting because the City is dragging its feet and failing tenants.”