Public Advocate Letitia James announced today she would introduce two bills that would expand the city’s power to penalize property owners with outstanding code violations—and expand the power of her own office and its annual “Worst Landlords List.”
Speaking inside the David Dinkins Municipal Building, Ms. James rolled out the “No Eviction by Construction Act” and the “Nuisance Abatement Act.” The first bill would prevent residential building owners on the Worst Landlord List—a database that Mayor Bill de Blasio launched during his first year as public advocate in 2010—from obtaining any work permit from the city except for fixing the violations that landed them on the list.
“This action would prevent landlords from conducting any work on their buildings until they fix the horrible conditions they subject their tenants to,” she said.
The ban would stand until the landlord made the repairs. Ms. James recalled that the survey she conducted before compiling and releasing this year’s list found cases where a landlord allowed apartments housing low-income tenants to deteriorate while they renovated other units to lease for a higher price. Up until this point, the Worst Landlords List could only serve to embarrass and perhaps hurt the business of offending property owners—Ms. James’s bill would give it the force of law.
Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, chairman of the Committee on Housing, will co-sponsor the measure when it is introduced in the Council tomorrow.
The Nuisance Abatement Act would stretch the definition of a “nuisance”—which the city has traditionally used to prosecute owners of houses of gambling, prostitution and drug-dealing—to apply to building code violations. The legislation would also give the public advocate, city agency commissioners and Council members the power to request that city attorneys take legal action against a landlord.
Ms. James reported seeing apartments in Bushwick that lacked heat, electricity and sinks and were “overrun by rats.”
“These horrific conditions are dangerous to any person’s health or safety. And this new law would give us the power to step in to act in such a situation like this, rather than waiting for the landlord, who has shown they don’t care,” she said.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Councilman Ben Kallos, both of Manhattan, will co-sponsor the Nuisance Abatement Act.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office said she would review the legislation before deciding whether she would help usher it through.