Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel on Monday announced a series of upcoming town halls to investigate cases of tenant harassment throughout Brooklyn.
Adams said the aim will be to determine the potential for lawsuits against particularly “bad-acting” landlords whose actions, including shutting off utilities, practicing threatening or intimidating behavior against tenants, as well as removing boilers and venting systems, have put the health and safety of Brooklynites at risk.
“Today, we’re changing our approach to tenant harassment in Brooklyn; we are not waiting for tenants to reach the end of their rope, we’re getting proactive,” Adams said.
“Harmful landlords are playing games with the health and safety of their tenants, and they think that fines are just a cost of doing business. Denying someone heat, hot water, sanitation or other basic services is not a negotiation tactic; it’s a crime,” he added.
The first town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14 at Brooklyn Borough Hall, Downtown Brooklyn.
Others are set for Thursday, Jul. 16 at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, as well as Tuesday, July 28 at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Following the town halls, Adams said he will work with City and State partners in referring cases “where criminality is at play” to the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force.
Where there are cases that may involve civil liability, Adams said he will work with a legal team, including Mr. Siegel, to explore the possibility of lawsuits.
“All landlords and tenants should be put on notice that we are serious about these town hall meetings, the issues of tenant harassment, and illegal actions by landlords,” Siegel said. “Our goal is to hold people accountable for their actions.”
A broad coalition of housing advocates partnering on these town halls joined Borough President Adams in support of the announcement, including the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development; Brooklyn Neighborhood Improvement Association; Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A; Carroll Gardens Association, Inc.; Fifth Avenue Committee; Flatbush Development Corporation; Los Sures Community Development Corporation; Midwood Development Corporation; Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant; Neighbors Helping Neighbors; St. Nicks Alliance; Tenants & Neighbors; and the Urban Justice Center.
“We are proud to stand with our member groups, Norman Siegel, and Borough President Adams in our efforts to end tenant harassment across the city,” said Jonathan Furlong, senior tenant organizer at the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development.
“We hope that the upcoming public hearings will provide a forum for tenants to talk about their own experiences, and shine a light on some of the more egregious examples of unlawful and unjust displacement,” he added.
“On our behalf and on behalf of our many community housing partners, tenant associations, and neighborhood residents, we want to express our deep appreciation for Borough President Adams’ launching of this campaign to highlight and address the growing patterns of landlord harassment, neglect, and criminal mischief towards rent-regulated, long-term, lower-income tenants in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods,” said Martin S. Needelman, co-executive director and chief counsel of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A.
“As I often tell our law student interns, ‘you didn’t learn this in law school, but the law is what you can get away with.” It’s about time that we stop letting these landlords get away with criminal tactics to remove rent-regulated tenants from their long-term homes,” he added.