Open letter to Community Board 11’s Land Use, Landmarks & Planning Committee

Dispatch From: Movement for Justice in El Barrio

Open letter to Community Board 11’s Land Use, Landmarks & Planning Committee

June 17, 2017

Candy Vives-Vasquez, Chairperson
Steven Villanueva, Vice-Chair
Manhattan Community Board 11
Land Use, Landmarks & Planning Committee
1664 Park Avenue, Ground floor
New York, NY 10035

Dear Ms. Vives-Vasquez & Mr. Villanueva,

We, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, are writing to thank you for voting “no” regarding the Mayor’s East Harlem rezoning plan. Yet, we also wish to express major concerns that we have regarding the way in which you have integrated some of our 10-Point Plan to Preserve Rent-stabilized Housing into your recommendations. We ask that after reading our concerns you review our 10 Point Plan and make the necessary revisions to your recommendations.

First and foremost, we wish to reiterate Movement for Justice in El Barrio’s position regarding the Mayor’s East Harlem rezoning plan and reiterate our request that you and the full Community Board 11 vote this way on Tuesday:

1)    We are unconditionally against the Mayor’s rezoning plan and want it completely scrapped.

2)    Once it is scrapped in its entirety, Movement for Justice in El  Barrio calls upon Mayor De Blasio to implement the 10-Point Plan to Preserve Rent-stabilized Housing. When our 10-Point Plan is implemented, landlords will be forced to follow the law so that we, long-term East Harlem tenants, can stay in our rent-stabilized homes.

At your Land Use, Landmarks & Planning Committee meeting held on June 16th, 2017, you indicated that you support some of the recommendations we make in our “10 Point Plan”. Yet, what you actually stated were “watered down” weak versions of those recommendations that you claimed to support.

Below is a brief summary of what you stated regarding a few of our “10 Points” compared to what those recommendations of ours clearly state:

1.    You stated that HPD outreach should increase regarding HPD’s role in addressing housing maintenance issues by creating a HPD website with consolidated friendly information regarding housing maintenance issues. This way the public can be well informed of their rights when it comes to conditions to their apartments and to have easy access and an understandable way to them and how to remedy that or gain help in correcting these conditions.

We completely disagree that solely a website would be a sufficient form of public education. In fact, our public education Point #2 states the following:

“Point #2: Mount a citywide public education initiative about HPD’s responsibility to safeguard quality, affordable housing.

  • Publicize the 311 hotline and HPD’s role in addressing housing maintenance issues using public service advertisements across all five boroughs, including on subways, buses, bus shelters, inside subway stations, newspaper ads, TV commercials, commercials on taxi TVs, billboards, radio spots, in hospitals and other readily visible public locations.
  • HPD should have community outreach workers distribute multi-lingual, easy-to-understand literature about their role in addressing housing maintenance issues in El Barrio and similar neighborhoods in all 5 boroughs. Materials should publicize the 311 hotline where tenants lodge complaints regarding housing code violations.
  • Consolidate all information about HPD on one web location and publicize this webpage in HPD Public Education Initiative materials and advertisements.”

As you can see, your request for a website compared to our Point #2 is very weak and does not reflect a strong public education campaign that the city must undertake to preserve low-income housing and improve our conditions.

2.    You stated that you support increasing the number of HPD inspectors as well as an increase in the numbers of convenient times and dates for tenants to have their apartments inspected, pursuant to complaints about conditions in their apartments.

Yet, in our Point #9 we state specifically that we want HPD to “Provide inspections 24 hours a day, 7 days a week”.

Furthermore, your version of our Point #9 is very vague and lacks the request for HPD inspectors to be available 24/7.

3. You stated that there should be adequate follow up and efficiency when issuing fines when the violations go on outstanding beyond the time permitted by law. Also, that it is important that HPD increase its response related to complaints regarding emergency conditions, such as lack of heat or hot water. As well as engaging in HPD’s Emergency Repair Program deploying it to make those repairs the landlord is not making by submitting fines and billing those repairs to the landlord.

This statement of yours again removes the specific concrete ways in which HPD should accomplish this which makes it a very weak recommendation.

Below is what we are asking for as it relates to what you stated:

“Point 3: Establish an administrative tribunal to assess and collect fines for code violations, and/or grant inspectors the power to write citations against owners which must be paid immediately upon finding violations left unrepaired during a reinspection.”

“Point 6: Improve response to emergency violations.

  • Landlords must be required to make repairs within 24 hours for emergency violations. Inspectors must be dispatched immediately and must notify landlords immediately in person, by phone or by email.
  • Dispatch inspectors in less than 24 hours in cases of lack of heat or hot water.
  • Promptly fine owners when heat or hot water is not restored within 24 hours.
  • Assign special emergency inspectors.”

“Point #4: Fulfill the responsibility of the Emergency Repair Program.

  • HPD must make all emergency repairs not completed by the landlord in the designated amount of time and bill the landlord.
  • Mount a special public education promotion during heat and hot water season advertising the ERP’s role and budget for addressing heat and hot water violations, and publicizing the 311 hotline where tenants can lodge their heat and hot water complaints. Utilize public service advertisements across all five boroughs including print, television and radio commercials and posters in readily visible public locations.
  • Hire community outreach workers to carry out this special public education promotion and publicize the ERP’s role for addressing heat and hot water violations and the 311 hotline in low income neighborhoods in all 5 boroughs.”

Moreover, we wish to emphasize that to ensure that HPD carries out all of their responsibilities to enforce the housing maintenance code, it is essential for you to ask the Mayor De Blasio Administration to establish what is specified in our Point #1:

“Provide true, independent citywide oversight of HPD’s performance. It is of the highest importance that enforcement mechanisms are put into place to ensure HPD’s execution of these recommendations and their regular duties.”

We also wish to say that we are dismayed that you chose to not support these other points of our “10 Point Plan”:

Point #5: Improve the quality of language-access for tenants receiving inspections.Point #7: Establish an East Harlem-HPD Housing Justice Program that can serve as a Pilot Program to be replicated in other similar areas with sub-standard housing at risk of worsening housing conditions and displacement.
Point #8: Establish community-based oversight of HPD’s performance in East Harlem

Therefore, we respectfully ask that you review all of the specifics and concrete solutions as outlined in our “10-Point Plan to Preserve Rent-stabilized Housing” in order to ensure the preservation East Harlem rent-stabilized homes. We have attached our full “10 Point Plan”. If you have any questions, please call us at 212-561-0555.

Thank you.

Josefina Salazar
Movement for Justice in El Barrio

Attached: “10 Point Plan to Preserve Rent Stabilized Housing

CC: Diane Collier, CB 11 Chairperson
Members of the CB 11 Rezoning Task Force