On April 18th the NYC Council held a hearing to end construction as harassment. Legislation was being introduced that would amend codes in regards to: permit filings for new buildings and alterations, vacate orders, inspections of permitted work, real time enforcement of violations, etc. in order to prevent landlords from using construction as a way to intimidate rent stabilized tenants to move out.
Advocates and supporters joined the coalition, Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) in testifying at the hearing, for four of the twelve bills in the STS legislative package. The Department of Buildings was present to answer questions, but for the most part the answers they gave only opened a Pandora ’s Box of more questions.
“The Dept. of Building keeps contradicting itself. It’s unnerving when the DOB testifies that harassment by construction is a big issue in NYC then at the same time says only a handful of landlords practice this. We receive dozens of tenants on a weekly basis reporting collapsing ceilings, excessive dust, debris in public hallways, damage to gas lines, etc. Is that harassment or what?” stated Rolando Guzman, St. Nicks Alliance’s Dep. Dir. of Community Preservation. “For far too long landlords have used aggressive and disruptive construction as a means to harass long term, rent stabilized tenants. This legislation will provide the Department of Buildings with stronger tools to protect tenants against “construction as harassment!” he continued.
After hearing the violation enforcement record on landlords, Council Member Antonio Reynoso said, “Obviously harassment through construction is happening, but not enough prosecutions are happening.”
“Across the city, some unscrupulous landlords are making life miserable for hardworking tenants and we must take action to stop them. It is inhumane and illegal to deny residents essential resources like heat and hot water or to make them endure dangerous building conditions, especially over prolonged periods of time. We need a Real Time Enforcement Unit to enforce construction codes and quickly address tenant reports of building violations and work without a permit. No one should feel at risk in their own home,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.