Friday, January 19, 2018

Tag Archives: Certificate of No Harassment

VICTORY: City Council to Pass Certificate of No Harassment Legislation

VICTORY: City Council to Pass Certificate of No Harassment Legislation

The Coalition Against Tenant Harassment is thrilled that Certificate of No Harassment (CONH) legislation passed in City Council today. An expansion of CONH beyond the Clinton Special District has been a goal in numerous community campaigns for decades, and our coalition in particular has organized and advocated for the past several years to make this program a reality.

Throughout New York City, far too many tenants face persistent harassment from landlords determined to drive them out in order to increase profits and deregulate affordable apartments. CONH will help to proactively prevent displacement by creating a strong disincentive for tenant harassment – essentially flipping the current incentive structure on its head. Where landlords have seen tenant harassment as a means to increase rents, the new CONH law will turn it into an obstacle to higher profits. And the simultaneous expansion of the definition of harassment in Intro 1721 will help to ensure that the real ways in which tenants experience harassment are acknowledged and counted in this and other programs and tools.

“In my community, too many tenants face harassment from landlords who want to push them out, renovate their apartments, and double the rent. In my building, where I have lived for 25 years, this is exactly what the landlord has done. This is why the Certificate of No Harassment is so important. This bill gives real voice to tenants and gives more weight to the complaints we make against our landlords,” said Maria Cortes, a member of Make the Road New York.

“Hard working people who are making the best with the lot they’ve been handed in life are working every day to make sure they cover the most important expenses in their household. But even so they are getting no repairs, and even living without basic services like heat and hot water. Hot water is a basic necessity for bathing and getting ready for work, or bathing after a long day, but people are going without because of deliberate landlord neglect. The Certificate of No Harassment will give us one more tool to hold our landlords accountable, and make sure tenants are able to organize for their rights,” said Sergio Cuevas, tenant leader & board member from the Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition.

“As the leader of our housing team at the Fort Tryon Jewish Center, a member of Faith in New York, and a tenant who has experienced harassment myself, my community and I knew that we could not sit quietly and be complicit in the oppression and degradation of our neighbors so that we can enjoy a comfortable community. We will stand by our neighbors, and use the resources we have to help protect them. That’s why we started a petition to raise awareness in our own community about tenant harassment, found that it had wide support across faith and ethnic communities. We are excited to celebrate the passage of this bill and are dedicated to doing our part, knocking on doors, and doing what we all need to do to build the beloved city!” said Avi Garelick, housing team leader at Fort Tryon Jewish Center and member of Faith in New York.

We thank Council Member Brad Lander for tirelessly championing the Certificate of No Harassment legislation. We thank Council Member Jumaane Williams for his support and consistent commitment to tenants’ rights; Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her leadership; and all of the Council Members who co-sponsored the legislation, voted for it, and helped bring this crucial new protection to the tenants of New York City. We also appreciate the effort and attention HPD put into developing this legislation, and we look forward to working with them to successfully implement this new program.

This is a victory for the tenant movement, and for the thousands of New Yorkers who have fought and will continue to fight for the right to stay in their homes and communities.

 

For more information on the legislation, click here to read our explanation document.

Click here to read the full press release from Council Member Brad Lander’s office.

Tenants of the Bronx and UWS Stand Up For Their Rights and Call For a Certificate of No Harassment

Tenants of the Bronx and UWS Stand Up For Their Rights and Call For a Certificate of No Harassment

Tenants of 124 E 176th Street and UWS hold actions on Wednesday to oppose tenant harassment from their landlords

Last week, two different local protest actions once again highlighted the harassment tactics that are displacing low-income tenants in neighborhoods across the city.

It has been over a month since tenants from the Tenant Association of 124 E 176th Street sent a letter to their landlord, David David. David was on the Public Advocates “Worst Landlords” list twice under different aliases. He owns dozens of buildings in the Bronx, and his priority is unquestioningly profit over all else, including the lives of people who have the misfortune to live in his buildings. Senator Gustavo Rivera stood in solidarity with tenants to call for an end to these predatory practices.

In their letter, tenants asked David to meet with them to discuss the primary concerns of residents, including harassment, lack of repairs, and serious health concerns caused by mold, infestations of mice and rats, and lack of security. They received no response.

One tenant, Corine Ombongo-Golden, has taken to referring to her landlord as “Dracula” because of the draining affect his actions have on her and her neighbors. She described how he constantly takes tenants to court saying that they owe money when they are actually up to date.

“He is a master of strategic harassment,” she said, adding that, in addition to these frivolous court cases, tenants suffer through “verbal and other forms of harassment, like not making repairs and racist rhetoric.” With support from the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition and came together to protest these unjust actions at a rally outside of their building on June 28th. Click here to see New 12’s coverage of the event as well as Telemundo 47.

The same afternoon, tenants of Meyer Orbach’s CoSo Apartments, working with the Goddard Riverside Law Project held a rally and demonstration to protest increasing tenant harassment. The Orbach Group, which owns over 70 apartment buildings within the Manhattan Valley area is currently under investigation from the NYC Attorney General’s office for a pattern of abuses towards rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants throughout their portfolio.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal and members of New York State Senator Marisol Alcantara’s office, Council Member Mark Levine’s office, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office were there to show their support.

Both actions were affiliated with the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment, which includes community groups from around the City organizing for increased protections for rent-regulated tenants. Egregious behavior by landlords continues to pop up in building after building, neighborhood after neighborhood, all over the City.

The tools currently in place clearly don’t do enough to prevent landlords motivated by future profits from resorting to illegal tactics to drive out tenants. But knowing that harassing tenants might put a permanent dent in those future profits could provide a real disincentive for those same landlords. A strong citywide Certificate of No Harassment law would be enough to make landlords think twice about using harassment to drive out tenants.

To learn more about the legislation and the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment (CATH), visit our website.

 

Melanie Breault, ANHD’s Communications Associate
Follow us on Twitter! @ANHDNYC

CASA’s New White Paper Gets to the Heart of The Displacement Debate

CASA’s New White Paper Gets to the Heart of The Displacement Debate

Last week, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) released a powerful new white paper, “Resisting Displacement in the Southwest Bronx.” Drawing on research, their own organizing experience and the experience of tenants in the neighborhood, the paper lays out the myriad displacement pressures Bronx residents face, the ways in which a rezoning would exacerbate those pressures and tangible solutions that must be put in place to alleviate them.

The paper highlights the role harassment plays in forcing tenants out of their neighborhoods and strongly pushes back on the City’s stance that rezonings do not cause displacement. Countering this narrative is especially important in a low-income community of color like the Southwest Bronx, where the history of race, class and displacement cannot – and must not – be ignored. CASA outlines some of the tactics landlords use to push out their tenants, including the denial of services and repairs, using loopholes in the law to raise rents through Major Capital Improvements, non-rent fees, preferential rents, and bringing frivolous cases to Housing Court. If the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning goes through – significantly increasing existing land value – the incentive to displace tenants as a way to increase profits will be even greater. Unfortunately, the City’s proposed mitigations for this – the creation of affordable housing through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and existing subsidy programs – are not sufficient, as the units created are at income levels beyond the reach of most neighborhood residents and cannot make up for the loss of existing homes.

This is why CASA is calling for new solutions to fight displacement before any rezoning moves forward. The proposals include creating an affordable housing subsidy program that truly matches the neighborhood’s need and a package of strong tenant protection measures such as Right to Counsel and a city-wide Certificate of No Harassment (CONH) program.

In laying out the reality and dangers of displacement in the Southwest Bronx, the paper makes the crucial point that the experience and voice of neighborhood residents on this issue cannot be ignored or glossed over. These tenants are not speaking up against a rezoning because they are uninformed, misinformed, reactionary or simply afraid of change. They are speaking up because they are experts in what is happening in their neighborhood. They know best about the reality of displacement and the threat it poses to their community. They know best what solutions must be in place to create a new path forward.

It is this community vision that CASA eloquently lays out in their paper’s conclusion:

“The other possibility, the one we fight for, is that this will prove to be a rezoning for low-income tenants of color. That the rezoning will be buttressed by so many anti-displacement policies that it will be something different: investment that corrects the past wrongs of our City’s developers and policy makers and creates a new path forward of development without displacement. If we cannot figure out how to bring investment in the Southwest Bronx without displacing thousands of tenants, without repeating our past, then we can’t do it anywhere.

But if we can do it here we can do it everywhere.

Community Members explained what “OurBronx” means at Jerome Avenue Rezoning Hearing

Last night, hundreds of tenants, workers, business owners, and other local community members packed the Department of City Planning (DCP) scoping hearing for the Jerome Avenue Rezoning. Following a rally and march where community members chanted, “Fight, fight, fight, housing is a right” and “Who’s Bronx? Our Bronx,” members of the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision streamed into the auditorium at Bronx Community College. Speaker after speaker expressed concerns about how the proposed rezoning would impact existing community members, and voiced skepticism as to whether, a year and a half into the process, the City was taking seriously the community’s concerns.

“I’m a single mother, work day and night to pay rent, and I know the housing built in the rezoning won’t be affordable for me,” said one community member.

“Where are the autos shops going to go? You have no plan for them!” said another.

These stories and others made it clear that without new, significant, proactive anti-displacement protections, new development would benefit people making higher incomes than most local residents and would simply make these stories of harassment more common. Several specific policy recommendations were highlighted, including the need for citywide Certificate of No Harassment legislation to proactively disincentivize harassment.

Many speakers also pointed out that any new affordable housing created under existing programs – specifically Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and the City’s Extremely Low- and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) development program – would largely create housing out of reach for a large percentage of current residents. MIH does not reach the nearly one third of New Yorkers whose incomes are at or below 30% of AMI, and the city’s existing programs for creating affordable housing have only a limited ability to target those at the low end of the income spectrum, who are in fact those most in need of affordable housing in the Jerome Avenue area and throughout the City.

Nearly a year ago, the Bronx Coalition put out a policy platform with thoughtful and detailed recommendations to address their four primary areas of concern: the development of new housing at levels affordable to local residents; anti-displacement & anti-harassment policies for residential and commercial tenants; the creation & preservation of good jobs with local hire; and real community engagement in the planning process.

Coalition members strongly made the case that the draft scope put out by DCP last month did not reflect their policy platform nor did it include detailed recommendations made separately regarding how to conduct an environmental review that would appropriately capture a wide range of possible impacts on the community. While the City has engaged in a wide range of meetings and public forums with local community members, speakers last night pointed out that a real community engagement process needs to result in the local community’s interests being prioritized in the actual plans that move forward.

The communities along Jerome Avenue are not simply saying no to change, a point repeatedly emphasized by opposing speakers. But change can come in a variety of forms to a community that is experiencing rising market pressures, and that change will be fundamentally shaped by this rezoning process. Local residents have a right to see their needs prioritized in the plan.