All across New York City, landlords seem to be getting away with harassing tenants, withholding services, and letting quality-of-life issues get out of hand.
In Crown Heights, residents on New York Avenue have tried time and time again to get help from government agencies designed to oversee the multitude of problems. Their pleas for consistent gas, hot water and a solution to their pest problem have fallen on deaf ears.
So instead, they’re going on a rent strike. It seems absurd, but it’s really their only option.
These problems aren’t unique to Crown Heights or Brooklyn in general. In gentrifying neighborhoods in Queens, especially Ridgewood, rent-stabilized tenants report rampant harassment.
Getting help needs to be clear and easy, and that seems to be the problem. Tenants are often not sure which agency they should reach out, whether it is the Department of Buildings, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, or filing a personal lawsuit in Housing Court.
That’s to say nothing of the various state agencies that could be in play.
Mayor Bill de Blasio created a special task force to provide legal assistance to tenants facing harassment, which is a great start, but it doesn’t address the immediacy of the problem.
If you’re living in an apartment without heat or hot water, you can’t for the city's legal system to get a judgement that a landlord still may not comply with.
It needs to be easier for the city to get access to apartment, make necessary repairs to ensure the home is safe, then charge the landlord.
Hopefully, that would force landlords to make necessary repairs and reduce tenant harassment. Some may see it as an infringement on the rights of a private property owner, but the right of all New Yorkers to live safely comes first.