Council will also vote on Regulating the Use of All-Terrain Vehicles and Dirt Bikes within City Limits and on Landmark Designation Status for the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to reform the Nuisance Abatement Law through the implementation of the Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act (NAFA). The Council will also vote to expand language access to government services for city residents. In addition, the Council will vote to regulate the use of all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes within city limits, and to increase fines for failure to remove abandoned utility poles. The Council will also vote to strengthen street number requirements. Finally, the Council will vote on landmark designation status for the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District of Manhattan, and on the co-naming of 40 streets and thoroughfares throughout New York City.

Implementation of Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act

The Nuisance Abatement Law (NAL) permits the shuttering of locations – including commercial businesses and private residences – without notice to the defendant. The law originated in the 1970s as a method of quickly closing down locations that were identified as sites of repeated criminal activity. Over time, concerns have arisen that NAL has been unevenly applied to a broad range of circumstances, often unwittingly targeting individuals who are not connected to the crimes in question. The Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act seeks to reform the practice of nuisance abatement through implementation of clearer guidelines on execution and transparency.

Introduction 1308-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Corey Johnson, would limit the application of temporary orders pursuant to NAL. These types of orders would be permitted only for nuisances involving prostitution, certain violations of the building code, and problematic commercial locations in which there is a significant risk of imminent physical harm to the public. Temporary restraining orders, which do not permit the shuttering of a location but which do permit court orders without notice to the defendant, would be permitted in these circumstances as well. These orders would also be permitted for public nuisances for commercial locations that sell alcohol without a license or which have a license to sell liquor and violate the State’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

Problematic locations could still be shut down while a NAL case is pending in the form of “preliminary injunctions” but these injunctions could be granted only after notice was provided to the defendant. The bill would also require that preliminary injunctions be granted only where the “public health, safety, and welfare immediately requires the granting” of the injunction.

“The Nuisance Abatement Law is a necessary safeguard to protect our communities from criminal behavior, but its uneven application has unfairly forced innocent residents and business owners out of their homes or properties,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Reforming the substance of the law ensures that we are protecting tenant and owner rights while enabling the police department to shutter problematic locations in an efficient and informed manner. The Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act will promote due process, ensure proportionate and fair outcomes, and allow for nuisance abatement actions to be undertaken with full transparency. I thank the NYPD for working with the City Council on these reforms, and the Daily News and Pro Publica for bringing light to this important issue.”

Nuisance abatement actions are often filed while actions addressing the same conduct proceed in venues such as the State Liquor Authority, Housing Court, and the New York City Housing Authority. These actions often lead to identical outcomes for defendants, who then face double-punishment for one bad act.

Introduction 1315-A, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require dismissal of a nuisance abatement action if there were any similar legal proceeding in the tribunals of NYCHA or Housing Court, unless the city could establish a “unique and compelling interest” in the NAL action. The bill would address duplicate fines being imposed on businesses who violate State rules on alcoholic beverages by requiring courts to consider whether fines imposed pursuant to the NAL would pose an “excess burden” on the defendant.

“When the City passed the Nuisance Abatement Law in 1977, it was designed to combat prostitution, peep shows, and general disorder in Times Square, but has since expanded beyond recognition,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “This legislation will help ensure that the law will be applied in a fairer way.”

Introduction 1317-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would eliminate misdemeanor possession of drugs and all misdemeanors related to marijuana from the nuisance abatement law. Felony possession or sale of drugs and all felonies related to marijuana would remain.

“As demonstrated by the Council’s successful efforts to curb the use and distribution of K-2, the nuisance abatement law is a powerful tool that can swiftly put an end to ongoing illegal activities in our communities,” said Committee on Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson. “However, it has become clear that the wide and disproportionate usage of this law has negatively impacted law abiding New Yorkers, and New Yorkers of color in particular. The Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act will institute important and necessary guidelines for the NYPD and keep innocent New Yorkers from being unjustly barred from their homes or businesses.  I thank the Speaker for her leadership and I am proud of the work my  colleagues and I have done to restore justice to the justice system.”

News reports indicate that due to the lag time between when nuisances occur and when nuisance abatement actions are filed, in many instances, the NYPD pursues NAL actions against locations that have already been shut down or where the offending tenants have moved out. There has been at least one lawsuit filed by a family temporarily evicted from their apartment by a NAL order who had moved into the apartment months after the previous tenants, who had been arrested for drug dealing, had moved out.

Introduction 1318-A, sponsored by Council Members Barry Grodenchik and Corey Johnson and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require the Law Department to “verify the ongoing occupancy of those persons alleged to have caused or permitted” nuisances within 15 days of filing a nuisance abatement action.

“I thank the City Council Speaker for spearheading this package of legislation to curb the abuse of nuisance abatement laws,” said Council Member Barry Grodenchik. “The bill that I sponsored requires the Law Department to confirm the ongoing occupancy of those alleged to have caused a nuisance.  Verifying that the person responsible for the nuisance is still there before the city takes action will prevent innocent families from wrongful eviction.”

News reports have documented instances in which drug-related NAL actions were filed despite the fact that laboratory reports made on the alleged drugs underlying such actions came back negative for any controlled substances, and such laboratory reports had been filed in criminal court months prior to the NAL action.

Introduction 1320-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require that laboratory reports be filed in any drug-related NAL action.

According to information provided by the NYPD to the Council, in many drug-related NAL actions, the NYPD relies on confidential informants to provide information regarding the location of drug sales, then executes a search warrant on that location prior to filing any NAL action.

Introduction 1321-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require that for any drug-related NAL action, one drug-related incident must be based on information supported by the observations of a police or peace officer – whether through the enforcement of a search warrant or otherwise.

“This package of legislation is a great example of how we can modernize our laws to better suit today’s needs and apply them fairly,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “When our City takes Nuisance Abatement actions, we need to ensure the highest standard of credibility, fairness and due process. This legislation will allow for rigorous enforcement of violations while preventing abuses. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the Council for taking another bold step in the direction of fairness and justice for all New Yorkers.”

Introduction 1323-A, sponsored by Council Member Karen Koslowitz and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would prohibit permanent injunctions barring persons from any property, instead limiting such relief to one year, or up to three years if there is “clear and convincing evidence that unique circumstances exist” justifying a lengthier period of exclusion.

The Padlock Law was passed by the Council in the 1980s, and permits the NYPD to shutter a home or business without any judicial review. The NYPD has indicated both to the Council and publicly that they have not utilized the Padlock Law in at least 15 years, instead using the Nuisance Abatement Law to address problematic locations.

Introduction 1326-A, sponsored by Council Member Stephen Levin and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would repeal the Padlock Law in its entirety.

“Our laws must reflect our ideals,” said Committee on General Welfare Chair Stephen Levin. “Introduction 1326-A ensures due process by preventing the abuse that often led to the loss of homes or shuttering of businesses. By taking this step we realign our legal system with our commitments to justice and fairness.  I am proud to stand with my Council colleagues in support of this measure furthering community protections.”

Introduction 1327-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require comprehensive reporting on the NYPD’s use of the NAL, including the rate of the use of interlocutory relief, the relationship between nuisance abatement actions and 311 or 911 calls, and the rate of these actions by precinct. Also, because other agencies and governmental entities can request that the Law Department bring nuisance abatement actions, the bill requires the Law Department to issue a similar report on the wider use of the nuisance abatement law. The bill would also require reports on NAL to be due every six months, beginning January 31, 2018.

“For years countless New Yorkers have fallen victim to inconsistent enforcement practices and unfair penalties under the existing Nuisance Abatement Law, often costing them their homes or businesses,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “Residents and business owners not involved in criminal activity should never be evicted from their homes without appropriate due process. Passing this much needed package of legislation, including my bill requiring the NYPD to collect data on the law’s application, will significantly reform New York’s Nuisance Abatement Law and serve as a major victory for our criminal justice system. I thank the speaker for her leadership and look forward to seeing the difference this package of bills makes across the City.”

Introduction 1333-B, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would establish a four-month statute of limitations for all nuisance abatement actions. According to information provided to the Council by the Administration, of the 15 forms of nuisance currently defined in the nuisance abatement law, those related to obscenity, air pollution, and noise control are rarely – if ever – used. This bill would repeal these types of nuisances and eliminate references to these nuisances throughout NAL. The bill would also update the definition of a nuisance in subdivision (d) of section 7-703, which currently refers to laws that no longer exist.

“It’s become obvious that the City is too loose with the nuisance abatement law in some cases, locking people out of their homes before being found guilty and doing warrantless searches,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “The NYPD can also act too slowly, which can lead to businesses or residences being shut down months after the matter has been resolved. We must ensure that the wrong people are not being kicked out of their homes, putting more pressure on the housing crisis and causing catastrophic damage to New Yorkers and their families. These are the New Yorkers we must work to do better for. These are the New Yorkers this package is aimed at. While we can’t undo the wrongs of the past, it is our responsibility to ensure that these wrongs are no longer committed in the future. I’d like to thank Speaker Mark-Viverito and all of my colleagues for working to craft this package of bills that will help provide protections for New Yorkers who have been unfairly targeted by this law.”

News reports have indicated that despite a State law prohibiting such usage, the NYPD has filed nuisance abatement actions including sealed criminal records as evidence.

Introduction 1338-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Salamanca and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require the Law Department to verify that sealed records are not used in NAL actions. The Nuisance Abatement Law currently requires only that service of legal papers on defendants be performed “as provided in the civil practice law and rules.” The State’s Civil Practice Law and Rules contains multiple methods of service, including personal service by mail. This bill would require that any residents of property subject to a NAL action be provided with personal service of NAL papers, or by service of a type ordered by a judge.

News reports have indicated that individuals frequently appear in NAL cases without attorneys, and often sign settlements that place onerous and unnecessary burdens on them, without judges ever reviewing these settlements. Reports also indicate that some individuals and businesses have been the subject of nuisance abatement actions despite having had no knowledge of the nuisance activity occurring within their residence or business.

Introduction 1339-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require judges to review and sign all nuisance abatement dispositions, and directs that the purpose of any disposition is to abate a specific nuisance and not to inflict punitive damages or more generally deter bad behavior. This bill would prohibit any nuisance abatement order from closing a business or depriving an individual of property rights if such person or business owner was unaware of the nuisance activity and should not have been so aware.

“This nuisance abatement reform package will cleanup some of the more damaging aspects of the NAL that have disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. There is no reason why a landlord or business owner’s rights should be terminated, or property or business automatically shut down, for a nuisance they have no connection to. These bills create a balance between protecting residents’ and business’ rights and getting rid of problematic nuisances in our City. I look forward to them being enacted into law,” said Committee on Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres.

While the NAL currently requires three instances of a sale of drugs to constitute a nuisance, it does not require any more than one instance of the violation of the State’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law to so constitute.

Introduction 1344-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require four such instances to constitute a nuisance, unless the violation was against a location that did not have a license to sell alcohol. This bill also addresses an issue raised in news reports that some NAL enforcement regarding the sale of alcohol to minors is based on incidents of minimal violations of this law, instead of targeting establishments with a pattern of frequent and flagrant behavior. This bill would require that NAL actions for the violation of the State Alcoholic Beverage Control Law be based on incidents so clear that any reasonable person would have been aware of this violation. The bill would also require that any closure of a business that has a license to sell beer and wine, but not a license to sell liquor, be based on “willful, and flagrant” violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control law.

“The application of the Nuisance Abatement Law has had a disparate impact for too long and in many cases did not allow for fair due process because of the uneven enforcement of the law,” said Committee on Housing and Buildings Chair Jumaane Williams.I’m proud that the City Council is reforming these laws and protecting New Yorkers from unnecessarily losing their homes and businesses.”

Expanding Language Access to Government Services for City Residents

Executive Order 120, issued by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, requires agencies to develop language access plans and provide language access services in the top six languages spoken throughout the city, after English. The executive order was an important step in providing language access but is in need of codification and expansion.

Introduction 1181-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would require city agencies that provide direct public services to provide language access services in at least ten citywide languages. The languages would include all of the languages from the current Executive Order, as well as four additional languages, determined by agency data. It would also require each covered agency to develop a language access implementation plan that describes how such services are to be provided and considers the needs of its service population. Additionally, outreach to language communities outside of those generally included in language access plans would be required to determine what services those persons might need, were such services available in their language. Finally, the law would also require reporting on implementation of the language access requirements.

“City services are only as good as the number of residents who are able to make use of them,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Expanding the number of languages these services are available in means that more New Yorkers will have access to critical resources, and in real time. Whether that means receiving neighborhood notifications in a native language, or knowing where to go for permit applications and outreach assistance, our communities are stronger when everyone is informed.”

Introduction 289-A, sponsored by Council Member Laurie Cumbo, would require the Housing Preservation Department (HPD) to make all applications and corresponding instruction materials available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish, and allow HPD to use additional languages at its discretion. It would also require HPD to provide a notice, listing all the languages in which applications are available, with all application forms, on HPD’s website, and in areas of HPD offices that are open to the public.

“As demand for affordable housing increases, demonstrated by the thousands of applications for every lottery, immigrant New Yorkers are being disenfranchised. Language is too often a barrier faced by everyday New Yorkers, but Intro 289 is bridging the gap to advance our City’s commitment to accessibility and affordability for all New Yorkers. We pride ourselves as OneNYC, committed to providing all New Yorkers with an equal opportunity to obtain an education, secure employment, and now apply for affordable housing,” said Council Member Laurie Cumbo.

Introduction 1240, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would require any city agency that sends Wireless Emergency Alerts to issue them in the two most commonly spoken languages in New York City, unless exigency or federal rule prohibits such issuance. This law would also require the Office of Emergency Management to issue Notify NYC notifications in at least seven of the most commonly spoken languages in the city, in separate feeds for each language.

“All New Yorkers must be prepared in the event of emergency—and that includes our immigrant families,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “News of potential hazards must reach us all without delay.  In this day and age, no one’s well-being should be at stake due to lack of English proficiency.  My legislation will save lives by requiring NYC to issue electronic emergency notifications in multiple languages.  This is a giant step forward for our city.  I thank my colleagues in the Council for working with me on this important effort.”

Regulating the Use of All-Terrain Vehicles and Dirt Bikes within City Limits

Introduction 834-B, sponsored by Council Member Andrew Cohen, increases penalties for the operation of all-terrain vehicles, including dirt bikes, in New York City. The first offense would be punishable by a fine and/or civil penalty of up to 500 dollars. Any subsequent offense is punishable by a fine and/or a civil penalty of up to 1000 dollars.

“New York City is only one terrain, an urban terrain, and it is no place for all-terrain vehicles.  Rampant and reckless ATV driving is endangering the lives of New Yorkers,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.  “I am alarmed by the harm such vehicles are causing in parks and other public spaces. This new law will put everyone on notice that we will not allow ATVs on our urban terrain, and give the NYPD another tool they can employ to stop illegal operators.”

Revising Penalties for Failure to Remove Abandoned Utility Poles

Introduction 975-A, sponsored by Council Member Alan Maisel, would raise the fine for failure to remove an abandoned or damaged utility pole.

“A longstanding quality of life complaint presented to my office by my constituents has been the proliferation of wooden utility poles. Many of these are now obsolete and are no longer being properly maintained. This legislation will go a long way in clearing our sidewalks from the obtrusive and potentially dangerous and no longer usable utility poles,” said Council Member Alan Maisel.

Strengthening Street Number Requirements

Introduction 179-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would increase the civil penalty for failing to post street numbers from $25 to $250 and the daily penalty from $5 to $50. Additionally, the legislation would require corner buildings to place the street number on every side of the building that contains an entrance primarily utilized for day-to-day pedestrian ingress or egress.

“This commonsense bill has the ability to make life easier for countless of New Yorkers,” said Committee on Housing and Buildings Chair Jumaane Williams. “A significant amount of the buildings in the City do not have signage, making it difficult for all New Yorkers, from cab drivers and deliverymen to everyday people to find their destinations quickly. In the worst cases, this can mean a life or death matter if it’s an emergency. No emergency responder should ever have to waste precious seconds or minutes, trying to find the exact location of a distressed person or persons, and having numbers at each pedestrian entrance will facilitate their responses and potentially save lives.”

The City Council will vote on landmark designation status for the following area…

Sullivan-Thompson Historic District

The Sullivan-Thompson Historic District consists of approximately 157 buildings, generally bounded by West Houston Street, West Broadway, Watt Street and the Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. The properties include row houses, tenements, commercial structures, and institutions with streetscapes that illustrate the growth of the neighborhood from its origins as a residential row house neighborhood in the early 19th century to a vibrant Italian-American neighborhood in the early 20th century. Large numbers of immigrants began to settle in this area during the mid-19th century.  The district’s earliest houses are characterized by distinctive residential architecture of the Federal period, while a few later row houses reflect the Greek Revival style.

“This area shows us perfectly how history can live on through architecture,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “The story of Italian immigrants finding a home here in the late-19th Century is quintessentially New York. It is a crucial piece of our history, and it speaks volumes about our identity as a City. I am thrilled that future generations will be able to experience this important story through the buildings and streetscape that live on to this day. I thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my colleagues in the City Council for their support of this well-deserved historic designation.”

The City Council will vote on the co-naming of 40 streets throughout the city…

Introduction 1449-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would co-name 40 thoroughfares and public places, based on requests of Council Members whose district includes the location. Of these 40 co-names, 7 are either a relocation of a previously enacted co-naming or a revision to the street sign installed with respect to a previously enacted co-naming.

Co-named streets include…

  • Michael Fahy Way at 2175 Walton Avenue
  • Paul J. Tuozzolo Way at Bronx River Avenue btwn Noble Ave and Rosedale Ave
  • Flight 587 Way at the northeast corner of 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue
  • Kalief Browder Way at the northwest corner of East 181st Street and Prospect Avenue
  • Elie Wiesel Way at the southwest corner of 85th Street and Central Park West

“Co-naming thoroughfares to honor notable residents and events is an important tradition for New York City,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Memorializing those who have made meaningful impacts on their communities and the city as a whole is a special way of celebrating their contributions. It ensures that their legacies are remembered as they continue to influence those who pass under their signs for years to come, and I am proud to be honoring these inspiring New Yorkers.”