Robert Conkling (left) describes the harassment tenants in his West 14th Street building have experienced, as Goddard Riverside’s Ryan Dubois looks on.
The Goddard Riverside Law Center rallied with other tenants’ rights organizations Wednesday at City Hall to press for expanded legislation to protect low-income New Yorkers from landlords who make their living conditions intolerable.
"We all know the deal," said the Law Project’s Ryan Dubois. "Landlords are harassing tenants to increase profitability."
Currently, many building owners have a strong incentive to do whatever it takes to drive tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments. That enables them to renovate the apartments and increase the rent.
The Law Project is a member of the Coalition Against Tenant Harassment, which wants to extend the successful Certificate of No Harassment law to prevent abuse. The law requires landlords to show that they have not harassed tenants before they can get a permit to renovate their buildings. Currently it covers only Single-Resident Occupancy (SRO) buildings, as well as a handful of districts including the Special Clinton District and West Chelsea.
Robert Conkling has lived on West 14th Street for nearly three decades Ð and the Law Project has twice helped his building organize to stop harassment. He said he and his neighbors had experienced illegal eviction proceedings, harassing phone calls, overflowing toilets, and illegal construction that caused the building to lose heat and hot water for three months.
"Goddard Riverside helped us understand we have rights," he told the crowd. "They made us see we have power in organization."
Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development addresses the crowd.
"The stories we’ve heard speak for themselves," said Emily Goldstein of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. "We all know it’s illegal to harass tenants but obviously that’s not enough to stop landlords all over this city."
"Rewarding bad-actor landlords in this city has become common practice and it must end now!" said Teresa, a Bushwick tenant and member of Make the Road, an organization that advocates for low-income and immigrant communities. "No landlord should be able to profit from harassment, and a strong Certificate of No Harassment Law is one step to ensure that stops."
The Coalition Against Tenant Harassment includes Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development, BRONX Coalition for a Community Vision, Catholic Migration Services, Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center, Faith in New York, Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC), Housing Conservation Coordinators, IMPACCT Brooklyn, Los Sures, Make the Road New York, Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.