Council will also vote on Reporting on the Role of Smoke Detectors in Fire-Related Fatalities and on Landmark Designations for 12 Buildings in Greater East Midtown

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to provide protections and information to residents of three-quarter houses. The Council will also vote to extend income eligibility requirements for those who qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption and Disability Rent Increase Exemption programs. In addition, the Council will vote to require reporting on the role of certain types of smoke detectors in fire-related deaths, and to authorize a cure period for certain item pricing violations. Finally, 12 buildings located in the Greater East Midtown area will receive landmark designations.

Reforming Three-Quarter Housing Throughout New York City

Three-quarter houses are typically one- and two- family homes, larger apartment buildings or other structures run by operators who rent beds to single adults. These homes are referred to as three-quarter housing because they are seen as somewhere between halfway houses and private homes.

“No New Yorker deserves to be subject to an exploitative or unsafe living arrangement, regardless of the type of home they live in,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Reforming three-quarter housing throughout the city is the right thing to do and ensures that these residents are afforded some measure of oversight and protection by the City. No one deserves to be exploited for seeking shelter, and this package of legislation is a good step towards supporting some of the most vulnerable among us. I thank Council Members Jumaane Williams, Donovan Richards, Corey Johnson and Ritchie Torres for their attention to this crucial issue.”

Introduction 1166-A, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, would require the Mayor’s Office of Operations to publish a quarterly report on its website on the findings of the Mayor’s Three-Quarter Housing Task Force. The Task Force, which is comprised of inspectors from the Human Resources Administration, the Department of Buildings, the Fire Department, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, inspects dwellings suspected to be three-quarters houses. The reports would include information on the number of violations issued to each building, and the number of individuals relocated from each building, disaggregated by the type of assistance each individual received. The first report would cover data from June 1, 2015 through March 31, 2017.

“Packing up to 10 vulnerable New Yorkers in small rooms is an abomination, and the existence of these houses says that we need to do a lot more as a city and a state to ensure that New Yorkers have a safe and secure place to lay their head at night,” said Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises Chair Donovan Richards. “I’d like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito, and Council Members Torres, Johnson and Williams for working to build up this vital package of bills aimed at helping recovering addicts and the formerly incarcerated or homeless, who at times struggle to find a helping hand. I’d also like to thank MFY Legal Services and all of the advocates who have helped us keep the focus on the individuals who are forced to endure these despicable living conditions.”

Introduction 1164-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would require the Human Resources Administration (HRA) to provide rental subsidy recipients with a written statement explaining eviction protections and procedures. Three-quarters house operators often unlawfully evict their tenants, most of whom use HRA rental subsidies to pay their rent. This legislation would ensure that such occupants are aware of their rights and help to prevent such unlawful evictions.

“No one should be allowed to exploit low-income tenants and deprive them of their basic rights,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “This legislation is going to restore justice to many tenants in New York and ensure that they’re informed of their rights against illegal eviction. At a time when our nation’s affordable and public housing stock is in jeopardy, New York City must stand up for the rights and dignity of our tenants. I’m proud to have joined with Council Members Jumaane Williams, Donovan Richards, Ritchie Torres, many of our colleagues in the Council and the Three-Quarter House Reform Coalition in demanding justice for these underserved New Yorkers.”

Introduction 1167-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would remove the time limitation for applying to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for relocation assistance following the issuance of a vacate order and would make clear that any tenant who moves out while a vacate order is in effect is entitled to appropriate relocation assistance. While tenants who are displaced by a vacate order are currently entitled to receive relocation assistance, some tenants do not apply for this assistance in time because they are unaware of their rights or do not learn of their rights until too late. This bill would ensure that when tenants are forced to leave their homes due to a vacate order they are able to receive relocation assistance.

Introduction 1171-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would allow tenants to verify their occupancy at a building which received a vacate order by, at a minimum, submitting a lease or two forms of certain alternative documentation. This legislation would assist three-quarters housing occupants, who often encounter difficulties in proving their occupancy, in qualifying for HPD relocation assistance.

“As legislators it is our responsibility to advocate and act on the best interest of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Committee on Housing and Buildings Chair Jumaane Williams. “The City’s housing crisis has opened the doors for unscrupulous and illegal housing operators to profit from vulnerable residents, denying those in drug treatment programs some of the most basic protections afforded to tenants. This industry has operated in the shadows for far too long and is overdue for regulation.”

Three-quarters houses often require residents to attend a particular substance abuse treatment program, regardless of their need for such treatment. Based on reports that tenants are forced to attend a particular program or face eviction, and are required to hand in daily “slips” to prove their attendance at such programs, it has been suggested that some three quarters housing operators are receiving illegal kickbacks from substance abuse providers. It has also been reported that tenants are often illegally evicted upon successful completion of these programs.  This legislation would prevent tenants from being forced into unnecessary medical treatment as a condition of remaining in their homes.

Introduction 1168-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would prohibit landlords from mandating medical treatment as a condition of occupancy, with the exception of landlords who are family members or legitimate programs, such as rehabilitation clinics. This bill would also provide a cause of action to tenants who face such a mandate, allowing them to receive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

“The City’s on-going affordable housing crisis and limited housing options has contributed to the existence of three-quarter houses that take advantage of extremely vulnerable individuals with nowhere to go,” said Committee on Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres. “Today, we are taking legislative action in order to protect tenants from being taken advantage of by abusive landlords who want to make a profit off the Medicaid system and government resources. My first bill would prohibit landlords from using medical treatment status as a way to discriminate against tenants and prohibit conditioning occupancy in a residence based on a person seeking, receiving or refraining from medical treatment. My second bill would eliminate time limits for a person to apply for relocation services when a vacate order is in effect for the location where the person lives. These bills confront the two major problems faced by three-quarter houses’ residents.”

Extending Income Eligibility for SCRIE/DRIE Benefits

The Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program was developed by New York State as a means to make housing more affordable for low-income seniors. The program was designed to provide qualifying low-income seniors who resided in rent-regulated apartments with an exemption from future rent increases. Over 61,000 households are currently enrolled in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs. These programs “freeze” the rent of eligible senior citizens and renters with disabilities at the time of enrollment and provide financial assistance to these vulnerable populations.

In 2014, the City enacted Local Laws 19 and 39, which extended the income eligibility for SCRIE/DRIE to individuals who earn up to $50,000 per year, from a previous cap of $29,000. This extension was authorized by the 2014 state budget, but it was deemed repealed after two years.

In the 2016 state budget the city was authorized to continue offering SCRIE/DRIE benefits to eligible individuals earning up to $50,000 per year through 2020.

Introduction 1309, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin and Council Member Andrew Cohen, extends the revised income eligibility requirements for the SCRIE and DRIE programs through 2020, providing assistance for individuals who earn between $29,000 and $50,000 per year. This legislation would take effect immediately upon enactment and be retroactive to July 1, 2016.

“As the affordability crisis in New York City continues to deepen, we must all do our part to ensure seniors are able to stay in the neighborhoods they helped build,” said Committee on Aging Chair Margaret Chin. “Intro 1309, which I introduced with Council Member Cohen at the request of the Mayor, will codify existing extensions for both the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) to eligible seniors who earn between $29,000 and $50,000. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland for their support to keep the most vulnerable New Yorkers in their homes.”

“There is no question that housing costs are rising dramatically in New York City,” said Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Disability Services Chair Andrew Cohen. “The SCRIE/DRIE income threshold must keep pace with the times, or we risk jeopardizing the housing security of our most vulnerable populations.  This legislation extends the current income eligibility limits to ensure that our seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities continue to be protected from future rent increases.”

According to testimony in June 2016 from the City’s Department of Finance, roughly 69,500 seniors qualify for SCRIE, and the department managed to enroll 51,715 seniors through a push to market SCRIE to eligible seniors. This included $1 million for the advertising of SCRIE programs throughout the city and a door-to-door campaign to notify 100,000 tenants about SCRIE.

Introduction 1024-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would supplement the efforts made by the Department of Finance and require other city agencies to disseminate information about SCRIE. Specifically, the bill would require DFTA, the City Clerk, Community Boards, DCA, NYCCHR, HPD, DOHMH, HRA, Parks and other agencies at DOF’s discretion to coordinate with DOF to implement and administer a distribution program to provide information about SCRIE. The aforementioned agencies would also be required to offer information about SCRIE alongside any written applications or forms for services provided by those agencies, in the same languages as those applications or forms, where practicable.

“Introduction 1024-A is a straight-forward bill that requires certain city agencies to widely disseminate information on the senior citizen rent increase exemption program (SCRIE) to everyone identified as age 62 or older,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “SCRIE information is to be distributed along with other written applications and forms for services the agency provides, and where practical, in the same languages as the agency’s written applications. Introduction 1024-A will help reach many more seniors who need rent increase exemptions. I’m happy to sponsor this bill that will help keep our seniors in their homes.”

Reporting on Role of Smoke Detectors and Alarms in Fire-Related Fatalities

The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) investigates fire-related deaths, and publishes an annual report that includes the use of smoke detectors in civilian fire fatalities. This portion of the report includes the presence of smoke detectors in civilian fire fatalities and whether such detectors were operational, but does not currently include which type of technology was used in a smoke detector. There are two basic types of smoke detector technologies, ionization and photoelectric, and virtually all commercially available smoke detectors use either one or both of these technologies. The following legislation would distinguish between smoke detector technologies when reporting on fire-related fatalities, and examine the relationship between certain types of smoke detectors and the cause of fire-related deaths.

Introduction 1294-A, sponsored by Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, would require the FDNY to publish a report regarding the use of smoke detectors in civilian fire-related deaths that would include the technology used in such detectors. This information would also be disaggregated by the cause of death, to examine possible correlations between the use of certain types of smoke detectors and certain types of fire-related deaths. This bill would take effect immediately and require an annual report to be issued for five years, after which the law would be repealed.

“This bill would require the Fire Department to collect and disclose important information when fatal fires occur, and allow the public and policymakers to see how certain causes of death, such as smoke inhalation and burns, correlate with the use of smoke alarms and the technologies in such alarms,” said Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services Chair Elizabeth Crowley. “Fire fatalities are at an all-time low, but one fire-related death is still one too many. We have a responsibility to do all we can to save as many lives as possible through common-sense policy, and this bill will give the data needed to determine how to move forward. My thanks to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership and dedication to the safety of all New Yorkers.”

Authorizing a Cure Period for Certain Item Pricing Violations

Under New York City law, supermarkets, groceries and bodegas must affix a price sticker on each individual item of most products offered for sale. This requirement is in addition to posting prices on the shelf where the items are displayed, which is required under State law. DCA inspectors issue violations for each failure to sticker price more than five items in a single stock unit.

Introduction 436-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would allow supermarkets to cure first time item pricing violations rather than paying civil penalties. A store would have to submit proof to the Department of Consumer Affairs that it has cured the violation within 30 days of receiving a notice of violation.

“There are over 5,717 supermarket and grocery stores across the five boroughs, employing 60,000 people, plus countless other mom-and-pop corner stores that provide consumers with their essential household supplies,” said Committee on Consumer Affairs Chair Rafael Espinal. “I am proud that today we made it possible for these businesses to cure item pricing violations before receiving a burdensome fine. Often these fines have been for minor issues like a single item missing a price tag. Owners were being fined hundreds of dollars on a regular basis because of a simple oversight, making it harder to do business in this city. I firmly believe in educating our small businesses so that they may flourish, while at the same time, ensuring safety and protections for our consumers.”

The City Council will vote on the landmarking of 12 buildings throughout the city…

All buildings included in this package are located in Greater East Midtown, and were identified through extensive review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and East Midtown Steering Committee. The LPC identified properties from three key eras central to the development of the neighborhood, and which complement existing designations.

Pre-Grand Central Terminal landmarks (constructed prior to the 1910s)…

  • Minnie E. Young House at 19 East 54th Street
  • Martin Erdmann House at 57-59 East 55th Street

Grand Central/Terminal City landmarks (constructed as part of or in response)…

  • Hampton Shops Building at 18-20 East 50th Street
  • 18 East 41st Street Building at 18-20 East 41st Street
  • Yale Club of New York City at 50 Vanderbilt Avenue
  • Pershing Square Building at 125 Park Avenue
  • The Graybar Building at 420 Lexington Avenue
  • 400 Madison Avenue Building at 400 Madison Avenue
  • Beverly Hotel at 125 East 50th Street
  • Shelton Hotel at 525 Lexington Avenue
  • Hotel Lexington at 511 Lexington Avenue

Post-Grand Central (constructed after 1933)…

  • Citicorp Center at 601 Lexington Avenue

“The City Council today is setting a preservation record — the most individual landmarks in a single day,” said Greater East Midtown Council Member Dan Garodnick. “As we revitalize East Midtown as a world class office district, we also need to protect its world class architectural history.  We worked with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure the area’s iconic buildings were landmarked before the City rezoned the area — and I am glad to see these efforts come to fruition. In preparing for East Midtown’s future, it is crucial we preserve the jewels of the past.”

“This slate of new landmarks is a critical piece of our comprehensive plan for East Midtown, and their approval today is another step toward making that plan a reality,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “The East Midtown plan works because it’s helping us preserve what we should, while building state-of-the-art infrastructure and commercial space that will serve all New Yorkers well for years to come. That’s smart growth.”