Unfinished Business at the Department of Buildings: The Gaps in Laws Intended to Protect Tenants from Construction as Harassment, and Our Community-driven Solutions


On January 20, 2022, the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (“STS”) and TakeRoot released Unfinished Business at the Department of Buildings: The Gaps in Laws Intended to Protect Tenants from Construction as Harassment, and Our Community-driven Solutions. The report was released in a virtual briefing event with more than 60 attendees, and included a review of our key findings and recommendations, tenant testimony, and remarks by NYC City Council member Lincoln Restler of District 33, Council Member Gale Brewer of District 6, Lacey Tauber, Legislative Director of the Office of Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Nicole Krishtul, Strategic Housing Organizer with NYC Comptroller Brad Lander’s office, and former Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

The report is a follow up to STS and TakeRoot’s previous collaboration in 2015 designed to call attention to the rampant practice of construction as harassment in New York City. The 2015 report, Stand for Tenant Safety: Summary of Data to Document Construction as Harassment in Rent Stabilized Buildings and the STS Legislative Solution, coincided with the introduction of a package of legislation in New York City Council designed to protect tenants and their homes from construction as harassment.

However, in the years following this historic victory, STS member groups and tenants noted deficits in both the implementation and enforcement of the bills, leaving tenants vulnerable to the continued practice of construction as harassment and related tactics.

This new report draws on data from a survey of tenants whose buildings underwent construction in 2019 and 2020 and is supplemented by publicly-available data. In addition to the survey, our research focuses on problems with the implementation and enforcement of some of the bills included in the 2015 package of legislation. Key findings from our research include the pervasive disruption of essential services in buildings with construction, health and safety hazards, physical and mental health consequences of construction as harassment, insufficient notice and postings about construction and tenant’s rights during construction, meaningless correct-by dates for vacate orders and missing information and lack of compliance for Real Time Enforcement Unit inspections.

STS calls for necessary reforms to the laws that are failing to protect tenants. The report lays out recommendations to address the gaps in implementation and enforcement of specific laws, and new proposals designed to keep tenants and their homes safe and harm-free. Selected recommendations include: expanding Local Law 1 to identify and remediate lead-based paint hazards in all multiple occupied dwellings and passing legislation for building-wide rent reductions where lead dust hazards have been found and revising Local Law 150 to require meaningful “correct-by” dates based on the specific vacate reasons listed on Orders to Vacate.

Read the full report here and the executive summary here.

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