Testimony of State Senator Thomas K. Duane Before the New York City Council Housing and Building Committee Hearing on Int. 340

October 10, 2007

Introduction No. 340 is especially critical because in recent years, there has been a rising number of building owners falsely claiming to be demolishing their buildings so that they may evict rent-stabilized tenants. The Rent Stabilization Law allows an owner who "intends in good faith to demolish the building" to evict rent-stabilized tenants, but many owners who have filed demolition applications are operating in bad faith. The landlords are passing off renovations of existing units as demolitions and exploiting the law so they can evict longtime tenants and low-income individuals and convert their properties into luxury housing or other high-profit ventures.

Unfortunately, many of the tenants who fall victim to "phony demolitions" are unaware of their legal rights and opt to accept buyouts from their landlords. Introduction No. 340 will give these tenants the information they deserve by requiring landlords to check a box if they plan to file with the New York State Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to evict a rent-regulated tenant when applying for an Alteration 1 permit or a demolition permit with the Department of Buildings (DOB). The DOB would then inform the tenants' community boards and elected officials who can reach out to them and inform them of their legal rights.

I strongly support Introduction No. 340, and I urge the City Council to pass this important piece of legislation. I applaud Council Member Mendez for introducing it and so many of her colleagues in the Council for supporting it. By providing tenants better access to the full range of tools that are legally available to them, this bill will make it harder for landlords to abuse the law and unlawfully evict rent-regulated tenants. It is also my hope that DHCR will revisit and strengthen its building demolition policy to the extent that it is possible, and that where it is statutorily prohibited, the State Legislature will act. We must continue to defend the rights of tenants throughout our great city of New York.

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