May 18, 2016
Seven buildings have a combined total of 726 building code violations
City implementing process to replace shelter providers
NEW YORK––Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that the City has taken another step in its effort to clean up buildings with cluster homeless shelter units by instituting legal action against the owners of seven buildings that have 726 building code violations. All of these buildings have cluster units operated by LCG Community Services. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development filed legal actions against buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn after the Department of Social Services demanded that LCG fix the deplorable conditions found in all of its cluster buildings or risk being replaced. The City took action against these landlords because LCG was unable to require the building owners to make the repairs.
“Our message is loud and clear: landlords who ignore their obligations will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Mayor de Blasio. “By forcing the landlords to fix the problems in their buildings, these legal actions will benefit not only those homeless New Yorkers living in cluster shelter units, but hundreds of non-homeless building residents as well.”
HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) filed what are known as comprehensive cases in New York City Housing Court seeking to correct all outstanding violations in each building. HPD generally seeks civil penalties in these cases, but if the owner continues to refuse to make repairs, contempt sanctions including incarceration may be sought as well. The seven buildings have a combined total of 305 units with a total of approximately 1,000 residents. Twenty-five of the units with 107 residents are used as cluster homeless shelter units.
In April, DSS sent a letter to LCG Community Services questioning its ability to operate its cluster homeless shelter units because of the numerous violations, and demanding a plan of action to resolve them. In the letter the City warned LCG that enforcement actions will be taken if violations were not resolved and that the recently amended Section 17 of the Social Services Law may be applied.
The City has been inspecting and issuing violations in these buildings and has been working to force corrections prior to the letter sent to LCG. HPD previously filed a comprehensive case against one of the seven buildings and that owner has already agreed to pay a fine and make all repairs by a set date or be subject to further penalties.
“City contractors have the responsibility to ensure that the homeless children and their families they serve have a safe and clean place to call home while they are in the shelter system,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “These legal actions demonstrate that we will work with our City partners to ensure that service providers fulfill their obligations and landlords who fail to follow the law face the consequences of their actions. DSS is also implementing a new process to replace providers of shelter units when it is necessary to take corrective action, for example when there is financial impropriety or substandard building conditions.”
Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been said, “We are happy to support the Department of Social Services and all New Yorkers, who, whether homeless or not, have the legal right to live in safe and decent housing. Landlords must not ignore the law – and we will continue to bring actions against those who neglect their obligations.”
Building violations are categorized by severity. Class A are non-hazardous violations, such as minor leaks, chipping or peeling paint when no children under the age of six live in the home, or lack of signs designating floor numbers. Class B violations are considered “hazardous,” such as public area doors not self-closing, inadequate lighting in public areas, or vermin. Class C violations are considered “immediately hazardous,” such as inadequate fire exits, rodents, lead-based paint, and lack of heat, hot water, electricity or gas. Inspections revealed that these seven buildings had a combined total of 726 violations, 134 of which were Class C.
As part of the 90-day review of homeless services directed by the Mayor, the City is phasing out the 16-year use of apartments as cluster shelter sites and making efforts to improve conditions and convert as many units as possible back into affordable permanent housing for the homeless families already living there or for families leaving shelter.
“As the State Senator representing the 32nd Senatorial District in an area where many shelter buildings are located, I am very glad that the New York City Department of Housing and Preservation and Development (HPD) is going to hold landlords who own cluster-shelter buildings accountable. Those landlords make many of the agencies who run family shelters look very bad, and if they are breaking the law, they should be punished. The exploitation of poor and homeless New Yorkers has got to end. I will continue to write about and fight for affordable housing for families and individuals in need, and in the meantime, I congratulate the City of New York for this very important effort,” said State Senator Ruben Diaz.
“Every human being in our community deserves to live in dignity, and that dignity starts with living in a clean, safe home,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “Landlords who paid to provide shelter to homeless families have both a legal and a moral responsibility to provide an environment where those families have the opportunity to rebuild their lives, not a unit where code violations and other hazards threaten their health and safety. I am deeply concerned about the situation at 2511 Newkirk Avenue in Flatbush, where LCG Community Services has refused to respect the dignity of their tenants by complying with the law. I commend the City for demanding immediate compliance, which will benefit both the homeless families living there as well as other tenants forced to live in deplorable conditions.”
“Access to affordable quality housing is a right all New Yorkers share – but the concerns of the many tenants living in cluster homeless shelters in my district have been ignored,” said Assembly Member Latoya Joyner. “Now, thanks to action from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Social Services – under the direction of Mayor Bill de Blasio – unscrupulous landlords will have to address their failures to fix and repair their buildings. Improving safety and living conditions for families – regardless of whether they find themselves in homeless living situations or as building residents – is my utmost concern and I am happy that there is movement on addressing these concerns.”
Council Member Stephen Levin, Chair of the General Welfare Committee, said, "It's imperative that all New York City landlords provide tenants with a safe and secure place to call home. While the City works to phase-out cluster sites, shelter providers must recognize their legal and moral obligation to uphold their commitments to the homeless families and children they serve."
"Every New Yorker, regardless of whether they live in a cluster shelter or not, should live in decent housing with safe conditions. HPD's legal action against landlords who failed to maintain their buildings and racked up violations is the appropriate step to ensure that families living in cluster shelters have a clean home. This is a clear message for all landlords operating cluster shelters: follow the law and maintain your buildings. I applaud the Mayor and HPD for using legal tools to stand with vulnerable families and protect their homes," said Council Member Ritchie Torres.