49 Make At-Risk Building List Due To Signs of Physical Distress or Deterioration

More Than 80% of Properties on the List Demonstrate Improvement – 50% Show Discernable Reduction of Housing Code Violations

View the At-Risk Buildings List and Learn More About the Proactive Preservation Initiative at http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/owners/Proactive-Preservation.shtml

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and City Council Housing and Buildings Chair Erik Martin Dilan announced publication of a list of the first 49 buildings targeted for increased enforcement action under HPD’s new Proactive Preservation Initiative (PPI). The At-Risk Buildings list is a key milestone highlighting the six-month mark of this new, comprehensive strategy to identify and address conditions of distress in multifamily buildings throughout the City before they reach a state that further endangers the health and safety of residents and the quality of the surrounding neighborhood. The list includes 34 buildings referred to HPD’s newly established Proactive Enforcement Bureau (PEB) which has the responsibility of performing roof-to-cellar inspections and monitoring the subsequent progress of the properties. Of the 34 buildings that made the list more than 80% showed some improvement through the correction of open housing code violations. The list also includes 22 buildings referred to Housing Litigation.

The Proactive Preservation Initiative was first announced in January 2011 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and former HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero, following a tour of one of the properties in the infamous Milbank portfolio. This group of 10 severely distressed buildings in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx served as a model for the PPI and was among the first properties to benefit from the strategy. The preservation of the city’s housing stock has been a key objective of the Mayor’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), an $8.5 billion initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of the 2014 fiscal year. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of more than 124,400 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs; 634 units of distressed housing were financed and preserved as part of the PPI in FY 2011.

“It takes one bad building to start a domino effect that could blight an entire neighborhood. Proactive Preservation is a game-changer for the City – going beyond reacting to complaints by allowing us to seek out buildings and intervene before they hit that critical level of distress,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “The buildings on this list have been identified as having conditions that put them most at risk, and by extension put the safety and wellbeing of their tenants in jeopardy. Results show that the majority are already benefiting from the Proactive Preservation strategy, putting them on the path to stability. This is about putting landlords on notice, making the process transparent and ensuring that the affordable housing stock remains a vital resource for hardworking New Yorkers for generations to come.”

“Since I announced the establishment of the Proactive Enforcement Bureau with Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Housing and Preservation six months ago, the PEB has made important strides in identifying buildings in distress before they become a danger to tenants,” Speaker Christine C. Quinn said. “By determining which buildings are in need of repair, and getting to them sooner, HPD has been able to work with property owners to reduce housing code violations and put buildings on the path to improvement. “

“Under the leadership of Speaker Quinn, the City Council has taken some pragmatic and astute steps to address the continuing problem of distressed housing in our City,” said Council Member Annabel Palma of the Bronx. “This initiative is another important step forward and will give City government the necessary tools to proactively improve the conditions in some of the City’s most at-risk buildings. I applaud the Speaker and Commissioner Wambua for making this innovative idea a reality and I look forward to working with both as we continue the fight for safer living conditions across our City.”

“I would like to commend HPD and Commissioner Wambua for their diligence in formulating this initial list of distressed buildings targeted through the Proactive Enforcement Initiative,” stated Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Housing & Buildings. “This is the first step towards ensuring that the conditions in these buildings do not continue to deteriorate and the tenants receive the adequate housing they are entitled to.”

The City Council, HPD and advocates have worked together on the overleveraged housing crisis in the city through the Financially Distressed Rental Housing Task Force, which includes as co-chairs Commissioner Mathew Wambua at HPD and Council Members Erik Martin Dilan, Annabel Palma, and Inez Dickens. The Task Force seeks to find solutions for individual at-risk buildings, as well as broad policy changes to help deal with the crisis in a system-wide manner. The City Council also created and modified the Alternative Enforcement Program through the Safe Housing Act, which is another tool for HPD to use when proactively identifying buildings.

335 buildings have been surveyed through the PPI over the past 6 months, with 49 exhibiting levels of distress that warranted further action and placement on the list. Of the 34 buildings now on the list, 50 percent of the buildings reduced their violations by as much as 30 percent or greater since their first inspection.

Five buildings showed remarkable improvement with an 80-90 percent reduction of their total housing code violations:

• 2280 Loring Place North in the Bronx reduced violations by 90 percent since first being inspected in April.
• 185 Audubon Avenue in Manhattan reduced violations by 85 percent since first being inspected in February.
• 1703 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan reduced violations by 84 percent since first being inspected in February.
• 2237 Bathgate Avenue in Brooklyn reduced violations by 84 percent since first being inspected in May.
• 125 East 18th Street in Brooklyn reduced violations by 84 percent since first being inspected in April.

Twelve buildings reduced their total violations by 35-76 percent, and 13 buildings showed a reduction of violations up to 31 percent. While the vast majority of the properties exhibited positive gains, four properties had an increase in violations during the same period and will subject to enhanced PEB oversight and HPD enforcement action. A total of 22 buildings exhibited conditions severe enough to warrant a referral to HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) to initiate cases in Housing Court seeking an order to have the owners correct the violations; 15 were direct referrals and seven were referred subsequent to the PEB inspection and therefore appear on both sections.

Buildings eligible for referral to the PEB are those deemed to be actively declining and at risk of becoming blighted and blighting influences based on data collected from various sources, including complaints registered through calls to 311, direct reports from elected officials and advocate groups, Housing Maintenance Code violation trends, and emergency repair and property tax and water liens. Properties are then surveyed by HPD’s Division of Neighborhood Preservation staff in order to confirm the data from those sources. Based on the data and surveys, buildings that exhibit significant levels of distress are referred to the PEB for roof-to-cellar inspections where additional Housing Code violations may be added and further oversight is provided. Buildings that are surveyed which show severe distress and neglect by the current ownership may receive a direct referral to HLD for litigation in Housing Court.

The list includes the building addresses and total violations on record prior to the PEB inspection, immediately following the PEB inspection, and upon publication of the list, which takes place at least 45 days after the first inspection. Buildings are graded by a color-coded system—from green to red—that notes improvements or decline in the property’s condition. Buildings which show an 80% or higher reduction in violations since the first PEB inspection are coded green; 35-79% reductions are coded as yellow; 1-34% as orange; and, buildings with no improvement or worsening conditions as red. Buildings referred to HLD have litigation pending with outcomes yet to be determined and therefore results are not yet rated.

The list will be updated every six months; any buildings whose violation counts have dropped at least 80% and are found to be in fair condition by HPD surveyors will be removed from subsequent lists. Buildings that have been surveyed, but whose conditions fall short of earning a PEB inspection or litigation, are placed on an internal HPD watch list and are subject to on-going monitoring and assistance, and if appropriate HPD may work with owners to provide preservation tools such as low-interest rehab loans.

The PEB is one tool that operates within the framework of the Proactive Preservation Initiative’s larger, comprehensive approach to addressing physically declining properties. The PEB and the At-Risk Buildings list provide a means for HPD to levy more stringent code enforcement activity and track the progress on buildings where ownership has not taken steps to address issues of distress. Prior to the PEB, tenant’s individual complaints to 311 were inspected by HPD code inspectors but the vast majority of buildings did not receive thorough roof-to-cellar inspections or 45-day reinspections. However, the PPI’s full range of preservation tools includes rehabilitation loans and financial counseling and referrals for compliant owners, or more severe code enforcement measures including referral to the PEB, inclusion in the Alternative Enforcement Program and Emergency Repair Program, and litigation when necessary.