Council will also vote to Regulate the Sale and Consumption of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products and to Rezone the Area of Greater East Midtown
City Hall – Today, the New York City Council will vote on legislation to significantly expand harassment protections for tenants. The Council will also vote on the Stand for Tenant Safety package, which targets construction-as-harassment, and includes reforms to the Department of Buildings related to construction standards and other practices. Next, the Council will vote on regulating the sale and consumption of cigarettes and other tobacco products. In addition, the Council will vote on increasing the qualifying income cap for the Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption and the Disabled Homeowner’s Exemption, and on authorizing surcharges on wireless communications services. Finally, the Council will vote on multiple land use items, including the rezoning of Greater East Midtown
Empowering Tenants Engaged in Housing Court Harassment Cases
This package of legislation significantly expands harassment protections for tenants by (1) making it easier to prove harassment in certain cases, (2) preventing landlords from visiting or contacting at odd hours without consent, and (3) allowing victims of harassment to recover damages and reasonable attorney fees.
Introduction 1530-A, sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, would provide that, where a landlord commits a harassing act, there is a rebuttable presumption that the landlord intended that act to force a tenant out.
“The rapid development of New York City is not an excuse for unscrupulous landlords to fragment communities and force out longtime tenants,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “As I made clear in my 2017 State of the City address – aggressive and intimidating practices that reach beyond normal buyout procedures have no place in our neighborhoods, and we will fight those attempts. I am immensely proud of the work that I and my colleagues have done in developing this package of legislation, and I thank all those involved for their commitment to empowering and protecting tenants across the five boroughs.”
Introduction 1548-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would expand the definition of tenant harassment to include situations where an owner repeatedly contacts or visits the tenant at unusual hours or in a manner reasonably expected to harass the tenant, unless the tenant has given consent in writing to be contacted at such hours or in such manner.
“New Yorkers have the right to live without fear of being preyed upon in their own home,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “The legislation we are passing today, including my own bill to protect tenants from repeated harassment during odd hours, will take the critical steps necessary to protect vulnerable tenants from abusive landlords.”
Introduction 1549-A, sponsored by Council Member Carlos Menchaca, would allow tenants to pursue harassment actions if the owner of their building engages in repeated interruptions of essential services throughout the building or commences frivolous court proceedings throughout the building.
“New York City residents need protections from landlords who show a pattern of repeated harassment and who use frivolous lawsuits to intimidate tenants,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “Withholding utilities, aggressive calls, legal intimidation and other forms of harassment cannot be tolerated. Introduction 1549-A, which I created and introduced in April, will extend tenants’ rights and help relieve our City’s affordable housing and displacement crisis.”
Introduction 347-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would allow tenants who prevail in harassment cases to collect compensatory damages (or $1,000) from the offending landlord, in addition to attorneys’ fees and costs. This bill also allows a court to issue punitive damages for such violations.
“As it stands, tenants facing harassment are met with nearly impossible odds when they get to Housing Court to try to hold their landlord accountable,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “This package of reforms will level the playing field and give tenants a fighting chance against harassment – a fight that I think is absolutely fundamental in the battle to prevent displacement and homelessness. Thank you to Speaker Mark-Viverito and to all my colleagues for their work on this issue.”
Introduction 1556, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would increase the minimum penalty for violations of the tenant harassment statute to $2,000 from $1,000, and, for owners where there was a previous finding of harassment within the preceding five years, increase the minimum penalty to $4,000 from $2,000.
“I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation,” said Committee on Housing and Buildings Chair Jumaane Williams. “Introduction 1556 sends a message to unscrupulous landlords that the City is serious about protecting tenants and their rights. I am also pleased to have helped shepherd both packages through the committee. Coupled with the other bills, Introduction 1556 will go a long way in curbing these illegal practices and making sure those in violation of the City’s law will be penalized accordingly.”
Reforming Construction and Other Practices Related to the Department of Buildings
This package of bills is intended to address the issue of unscrupulous landlords creating hazardous construction conditions to push tenants out of their homes. Together with Proposed Introduction 1523-A, which creates an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings (DOB), this package of eleven bills will ensure that tenants are safe in their homes while construction is going on in their buildings and that they have resources available to them during such construction. Additionally, this package will ensure that contractors who engage in construction work without required permits or who violate stop work orders are held accountable for their actions.
Introduction 918-A, sponsored by Council Member Margaret Chin, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to audit 25% of professionally certified applications for rent-regulated buildings, affordable housing projects or multiple dwellings which are the subject of a rent overcharge application and which are at least 25% occupied, on a monthly basis.
“For far too long, predatory landlords have put the lives of innocent tenants at risk just to earn a quick buck – all under the guise of necessary construction. This legislation would serve as a first line of defense against this egregious type of landlord harassment,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “By requiring the Department of Buildings to institute limits on the self-certification of buildings by landlords with a history of harassment, tenants have a new weapon to fight harassment, protect their homes, and prevent displacement. I thank my bill co-sponsor, Council Member Menchaca, as well as Speaker Mark-Viverito, Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Williams, and all of the tenant advocates for their vital partnership in moving this bill forward.”
Introduction 924-A, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to include the date by which an owner must certify the correction of any and all violations along with a written vacate order.
“It is no secret that some unscrupulous building owners have used vacate orders as a tool to evict tenants from their lawful apartments, said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “My bill, Introduction 924-A, which requires DOB to specify a date by which building owners must correct the violations that led to the vacate order, will ensure clarity on what is expected from building owners and hold them accountable for their actions. This, along with the entire STS package will go a long way to prevent tenant displacement and maintain safe living conditions for New Yorkers.”
Introduction 926-A, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick, would create a task force consisting of members appointed by the New York City Department of Buildings, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Environmental Protection, the City Council, and the Mayor. Among its primary functions, the task force would evaluate the current practices of the individual agencies represented in the task force with regard to construction and renovation by landlords in occupied residential buildings, publish a report of its findings, and provide recommendations to improve inter-agency coordination and sharing of information.
“Construction harassment is a lesser known, but deeply troubling form of harassment,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “We are determined to deliver effective and consistent strategies to help combat this practice.”
Introduction 930-A, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would expand the definition of distressed to include buildings which are subject to Environmental Control Board (ECB) judgments as a result of building code violations in the amount of a lien to value ratio equal to or greater than 25%. This bill would also require the Department of Finance to report on tax lien activities as a result of ECB debt, including the number of buildings subject to tax liens for ECB judgment debts, the location of the buildings, the number of dwelling units in each building, as well asrecommend whether a 25 percent lien to value ratio is an appropriate threshold for property to be considered distressed.
Introduction 931-B, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would allow the city to impose tax liens on buildings which contain 20 or more dwelling units where the total value of all such judgments against the building is $60,000 or more, or a building which contains between 6 and 19 dwelling units, where the value of the judgments is $30,000 or more. The bill contains exceptions for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s preservation projects.
“The Stand for Tenant Safety legislative package aims to correct the behavior of the worst landlords, who will now face the threat of foreclosure if they neglect to make necessary repairs,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “For too long some landlords and building owners have neither fixed recurring problems on their properties nor paid the fines that go along with those violations, putting tenants in unsafe conditions sometimes for years on end. Introductions 930-A and 931-B are written to prevent just that. Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito for her support and attention to the Stand for Tenant Safety legislative package.”
Introduction 936-A, sponsored by Council Member Mark Levine, would amend the information that must be included in tenant protection plans, which are generally required when construction work will take place in an occupied residential building, and prescribes measures that the Department of Buildings (DOB) and owners must take in order to ensure compliance with the tenant protection plan. The bill would also require that DOB perform inspections to ensure that sites are complying with their applicable tenant protection plans.
“New Yorkers have the right to live without fear of being preyed upon in their own home,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “The legislation we are passing today, including my own bill requiring more robust tenant protection plans, will take the critical steps necessary to protect vulnerable tenants from abusive landlords using construction as a weapon to intimidate them.”
Introduction 938-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would require the Department of Buildings (DOB) to compile and maintain a watch list of contractors who have been found to have performed work without a required permit in the preceding two years. The bill would also require DOB to engage in increased oversight of any worksite where a contractor included on the watch list works, and to provide a timeline under which a contractor could be removed from the watch list.
Introduction 939-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would increase the penalties for work without a permit on a one-or two-family dwelling from 4 times the amount of the fee for such permit to 6 times and for work without a permit on all other buildings from 14 times to 21 times.
Introduction 940-A, sponsored by Council Member Antonio Reynoso, would increase the penalties for violating a stop work order from $5,000 to $6,000 for the initial violation and from $10,000 to $12,000 for subsequent violations.
“I am proud to Stand for Tenant Safety,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “This a victory for everyone – for the advocates who have been tirelessly working on the ground in our neighborhoods and for the tenants who are being driven out of their rent stabilized homes by unscrupulous landlords. The citywide coalitions assistance with crafting the legislation has been paramount. Today, the Department of Buildings will have a comprehensive package of reforms to work with for better enforcement. These bills strengthen and protect tenants’ rights to stay in their homes and not be harassed by construction to their unit or building. This is key legislation for my district of Williamsburg, Bushwick and Ridgewood where these tactics run rampant, and just as valuable for families throughout the City.”
Introduction 944-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would impose additional penalties for performing construction work without a permit and increase oversight for buildings where such work has been performed. It would also require the posting of information concerning the occupancy status of a building subject to a permit.
“I’m so inspired by the advocates who have spent years fighting to make the Stand for Tenant Safety package of reforms possible – this is their victory,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “This legislation represents a sweeping reform to the Department of Buildings, and it will make a major impact in the lives of tenants across the city. Congratulations to the entire Stand for Tenant Safety coalition and to all my colleagues on the Council who have taken this cause up.”
Introduction 960-A, sponsored by Council Member Rosie Mendez, would require that a “Safe Construction Bill of Rights” be posted for occupants of a dwelling when the owner seeks to conduct any construction work that requires a permit from the Department of Buildings.
Introduction 1523-A, sponsored by Council Member Helen Rosenthal, would establish an Office of the Tenant Advocate within the Department of Buildings.
“The Office of the Tenant Advocate represents an end to business as usual at the Department of Buildings,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “While many at DOB do important work on behalf of tenants, the bureaucracy just isn’t in place to make tenants’ voices heard. This bill will change that, giving tenants a dedicated watchdog and workhorse on their behalf. Thank you to the Speaker and to my colleagues for their support.”
Withholding Permits for Properties with Outstanding Fines
Introduction 1133-A, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, would require the Department of Buildings to withhold building permits for certain properties where $25,000 or more in unpaid charges are owed to the city or where the owners of such properties owe, in aggregate, $25,000 or more in unpaid charges to the city.
“New York City is owed a tremendous amount of money—almost $900 million—in unpaid Department of Buildings fines. A large portion of these fines are owed by Bad Actors, owners and developers that persistently flout our City’s laws and building codes,” said Council Member James Vacca. “Right now, DOB essentially treats all permit-seekers the same, regardless of the applicant’s history. My legislation will change this. It will allow the City to take past actions into account, and deny new building, demolition, place of assembly or major alteration permits to those with outstanding debts in excess of $25,000. This measure ensures that owners and developers are more concerned with building compliance in the first place, and that when there are large fines, the City either gets the money it is owed or property owners don’t get the permits they want.”
Regulating the Sale and Consumption of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products
Introduction 1544-B, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would establish a 10% tax on tobacco products other than cigarettes, with proceeds being directed to public housing. It would also establish minimum prices and minimum package sizes for tobacco products other than cigarettes, and increase the minimum price for a pack of cigarettes from $10.50 to $13.
“Smoking poses an extreme threat to public health and we need serious policies to address those dangers,” said Committee on Health Chair Corey Johnson. “Too many children and non-smokers are still being subjected to harmful second-hand smoke, and cigarettes can be purchased on virtually every corner. I’m proud to join with Mayor de Blasio and my colleagues in the Council to lead the way in helping New Yorkers live healthier, longer, smoke-free lives.”
Introduction 1547-A, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would cap the number of cigarette and tobacco retailers at half the number at the time it goes into effect. This bill would also expand the cigarette retail dealer license to cover all tobacco products, requiring the license for the sale of these products.
Introduction 1131-B, sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander, would prohibit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.
“Today, the City Council is making huge strides against the #1 cause of preventable death in New York City: smoking. I am proud to stand alongside Mayor De Blasio, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, NYC Council Health Committee Chair Corey Johnson, and my colleagues to pass a package of legislation that will reduce the number of smokers in NYC by 160,000 over the next three years,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Strong evidence shows that just being exposed to nearby tobacco retailers makes kids twice as likely to smoke. That is why I am gratified to sponsor Introduction 1131 which will ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in pharmacies and Introduction 1547 which will reduce the number of cigarette retailers citywide by half, while ensuring NYC’s existing bodegas and small businesses operating in compliance with the law can keep their doors open.”
Introduction 1471-A, sponsored by Council Member Corey Johnson, would increase the fee for a license to sell cigarettes from $110 for the two-year license to $200.
Introduction 1532-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would institute a licensure requirement for any store wishing to sell electronic cigarettes, and cap the number of electronic cigarette dealers at half the current number.
Introduction 484-A, sponsored by Council Member James Vacca, would expand the existing prohibition on smoking and use of e-cigarettes in common areas of apartment buildings with ten or more units to include apartment buildings with fewer than ten units.
“Currently, smoking is prohibited in the common areas of buildings with ten or more dwelling units. Yet, there are buildings throughout the five boroughs, particularly in the outer boroughs, that have fewer than ten dwelling units. As of now, the law fails to protect people living in these buildings from harmful second-hand smoke and this disparity is wrong,” said Council Member James Vacca. “Introduction 484-A addresses this imbalance, prohibiting smoking in the common areas of all multiple dwelling units, regardless of size, and extending the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s power to enforce the ban in these buildings.”
Introduction 1585-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the owners or boards of rental, co-op, and condominium multiple dwellings to establish a smoking policy for their building.
“By making clear what a building’s smoking policy is, potential tenants and current residents can be better informed about their living conditions, environment and health impact. Residents deserve to live in clean, smoke-free buildings, if they wish, and a disclosure policy can bring transparency that’ll help residents make informed decisions,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres.
Increasing Qualifying Income for Senior Citizen and Disabled Homeowner’s Exemptions
Introduction 1676, sponsored by Council Member Chaim Deutsch, would increase the income eligibility threshold for the Senior Citizen Homeowner’s Exemption (SCHE) and Disabled Homeowner’s Exemption (DHE) property tax exemptions from $37,400 to $58,400.
Authorizing a Surcharge on Wireless Communications Services
Introduction 1677, sponsored by Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, would, pursuant to State authorization, extend the 30 cent surcharge on wireless communications service and impose a new 30 cent surcharge on prepaid wireless communications service, to support public safety communications networks serving the City.
The City Council will vote on rezoning for the following location…
Greater East Midtown in Manhattan
Establishing the East Midtown Subdistrict would supersede the existing Grand Central Subdistrict and serve to reinforce the area’s standing as a premier central business district, support the preservation of landmarked buildings, and provide for public realm improvements.
“With this vote, we are breathing new life into New York’s most important business district,” said District 4 Council Member Dan Garodnick. “Not only will we see sensible growth, but the public will benefit from extraordinary new investments in above-ground public spaces and in below-ground subway infrastructure. Better transit, new jobs, top-of-the-line office space: East Midtown is back, full of optimism, and open for business.”
The City Council will vote on the following appointments…
- Nasr O. Sheta to the Board of Standards and Appeals
- Michael Rivadeneyra to the Civilian Complaint Review Board