Tenants Rally for Anti-Harassment Law: Call on City Council and Mayor to Pass Certificate of No Harassment

October 26, 2017

enants and advocates from across New York City rallied this morning to call on City Council and Mayor de Blasio to pass Certificate of No Harassment (CONH) legislation before the end of the year.

New York, NY - Tenants and advocates from across New York City rallied this morning to call on City Council and Mayor de Blasio to pass Certificate of No Harassment (CONH) legislation before the end of the year. The CONH law advocated by the Coalition would prevent landlords with a history of tenant harassment in their buildings from accessing building permits unless they committed to setting aside a portion of the building as permanently affordable housing.

Speakers at the rally emphasized that landlords frequently use harassment as a means to generate turnover and raise rents in rent stabilized buildings. Near the start of the rally, advocates unfurled a list of nearly 20,000 apartments that had left rent stabilization during the de Blasio Administration's first term to emphasize the urgency of the problem. The list stretched over 300 feet, spilling down the steps of City Hall. Several tenant speakers described their personal experiences with harassment from their landlords, calling for protections so that others in their communities would not continue to experience similar horror stories.

"Landlords harass tenants daily, and often when they do make repairs, they make superficial repairs that reoccur a short while later. My message to City Hall is ACT NOW! The Certificate of No Harassment is a strong tool to protect tenants," said Sofia Green, a member of Make the Road NY and Bushwick resident.

Melanie Wang, Chinatown Tenant Union Organizer at CAAAV, said, "We are calling upon our City Council to pass CONH legislation as soon as possible and as strong as possible. The Chinatown community has been calling for anti-harassment tenant protections for years, as evidenced by the prominent inclusion of such policies in the Chinatown Working Group plan. We are tired of seeing long-time, working-class tenants in Chinatown and across our city harassed to the breaking point and displaced from their neighborhoods by predatory landlords." 

Rabbi Guy Austrian of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center in Washington Heights said, "In the eyes of Jewish law, landlords can earn a profit, but they're providing something that human beings need, so housing has to be stable and reliable - you can't just push people out and not care what happens to them. In our city, we need landlords who understand their business as a sacred trust."

"In Gowanus, market forces, speculative development and the anticipated rezoning put the remaining rent regulated housing units in our neighborhood and the people that live in them at increasing risk for bolder and more unscrupulous actions to push them out. Advancing a Citywide Certificate of No Harassment before rezoning areas such as Gowanus will help preserve existing affordable housing and stem the tide of displacement," said Sabine Aronowsky of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Several Coalition members emphasized that the CONH law's biggest strength lies in its potential as a deterrent. By turning tenant harassment into an impediment to future profits, they hope to reduce the number of tenants dealing with the problem at all. The Coalition's proposal calls for the law's "cure" units - the set-aside apartments required in buildings found to have a history of tenant harassment - to be permanently affordable at an average of 40% AMI, or approximately $801 for a 3-person household. In comparison, median asking rent in 2016 in Bushwick was $2,600; in Fordham/University Heights in the Bronx, it was $1,500; and in East Harlem, it was $2,200.  

"It is imperative that the Certificate of No Harassment doesn't become another program that is just part of the operating costs of doing business as a landlord," said Maya Bhardwaj, Housing Organizer at Faith in New York. "We need a strong bill and a strong core to make sure all New Yorkers, especially working class folks and people of color, are protected with the moral imperative to a safe and affordable home."

"It's not enough to punish landlords for bad behavior. Our goal should be to prevent that behavior from happening in the first place. Our hope is that the Certificate of No Harassment law will change landlord behavior by using their profit motive - basically by making it more costly to harass tenants than to just follow the law and leave them in peace," said Emily Goldstein, Senior Campaign Organizer at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development.

About the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment (CATHnyc)

The Coalition Against Tenant Harassment (CATHnyc) is comprised of community organizations from around the City that are fighting against the displacement of low-income tenants through grassroots organizing and by promoting new proactive tools to disincentivize tenant harassment. 


Visit www.enddisplacement.org to learn more about the Coalition.

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