Wednesday September 30th 2015, After a report was released documenting the aggressive construction practices that landlords have been using to harass and displace tenants. WE ACT members joined forces at City Hall with allies in the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition to demand tenants’ rights throughout the city and ensure all New Yorkers have access to safe and affordable housing.
The report, which is based on surveys of 150 rent stabilized tenants and the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) records of 57 buildings where survey respondents live, documents aggressive construction practices in occupied buildings and the ways in which construction is used to displace rent-regulated New York City tenants. Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) is a coalition of community-based organizations, legal service agencies and tenant advocates who are working to document instances of “construction as harassment” and protect tenants
The report details some staggering findings:
- Negligent response time from DOB: It took an average of 46 days for the Department of Buildings (DOB) to respond to 311 calls in the buildings surveyed; the longest response time to a complaint was 926 days.
- Safety hazards: 15% of people surveyed could not access fire escapes during construction.
- Health hazards: Nearly three quarters of tenants reported that construction was a threat to their health and safety, with 87% citing excessive dust in their buildings and 73% citing construction debris in the hallway.
- Displacement and buyouts: 52% of respondents considered moving out because of the construction; 53% were offered a buyout before or during construction—a mechanism used by landlords to displace rent stabilized tenants; and a third of those that were offered a buyout said they felt pressure from a landlord or landlord representative to take it.
- Insufficient services from DOB: 71% of respondents rated their overall experience of reporting problems to 311 as fair or poor; 70% rated DOB fair or poor in addressing their problem, 22% said that their problem was never addressed.
Along with the rally, members of City Council rolled out a package of 12 bills that aim to reform the Department of Buildings, the agency tasked with issuing permits to developers and responding to tenants who report violations. Bill sponsors include Council Members Margaret Chin, Rafael Espinal, Daniel Garodnick, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Stephen Levin, Mark Levine, Rosie Mendez, Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso, and Helen Rosenthal.
For additional information, contact Stanley Fritz at 212-961-1000 ext. 320
West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT for Environmental Justice) is a Northern Manhattan community-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. Follow us on Twitterand Like us on Facebook