Tenant advocates and lawmakers want the city’s Buildings Department to step up its work to protect tenants facing harassment from landlords.
A report released on Wednesday affirms a litany of complaints critics are lodging at the city agency, including slow and ineffective response to complaints about construction work that negatively affects tenants’s health.
The report, by coalition group Stand for Tenant Safety and the Urban Justice Center, also says the Buildings Department fails to collect fines on landlords who accumulate violations that stack up over time and end up pushing residents out.
The Department of Buildings did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Metro.
In front of City Hall, Rob Pinter of the Lower East Side told reporters the landlord of his building displaced most of the 17 rent-regulated tenants before he began renovations in 2013.
They haven’t ended, said Pinter, who accused the landlord of allowing jackhammering of the unit above his.
“This led to a ceiling collapse and the release of clouds of toxic dust into my apartment,” he said, adding he has since been diagnosed with bronchial asthma.
Public online records show the building that Pinter lives in on 8th Street has received 17 complaints since June 2013, all of which were classified as resolved. The only open violation listed online refers to a cracked wall in the basement. Four other violations since March 2013 were dismissed.
Bolstered by the report, at least 11 City Council members have signed on to a series of bills designed to reform the Buildings Department.
“Too often landlords get away with claiming their building has no occupants and forcing tenants to live amidst a gut renovation,” said Manhattan City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal in a statement.
“Until DOB finds a solution to check every landlord’s claims of ‘no occupancy,’ it remains complicit in the harassment that landlords inflict on tenants,” Rosenthal added.
The report comes two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced $12.3 million in city money would be directed towards free legal services for tenants facing eviction and displacement by landlords.