Quinn Touts the Benefits Of Tenants Protection Law
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Battling opposition to a new city law giving tenants the power to sue landlords on grounds of harassment, the City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, is pointing to a group of Brooklyn tenants who are among the first to file suit.
The tenants of 64 Troutman St. in Bushwick claim in the suit that their landlord, Heskel 1 LLC, tore up the stairwells, left trash throughout the halls, and even dropped a sack of dead cats in a vacant apartment to rot for weeks. All, they claim, was an attempt to drive up rent prices by forcing them to leave their homes.
According to Daisy Terry, a resident of 64 Troutman St., she and her neighbors became concerned that there was a dead body in a vacant first-floor apartment after a grotesque odor began to fill the building over the course of some weeks.
“I had to hold my nose just to walk downstairs,” Ms. Terry said yesterday at a press conference in City Hall.
Inspectors from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development later discovered a bag of dead, rotting cats. The tenants claim their landlord left them there as part of an ongoing campaign to force them from their homes after they refused to accept a cash payment in exchange for moving out. Multiple telephone messages requesting comment from the building’s landlord and an attorney representing the company were not returned.
According to Ms. Quinn, the tenants’ suit is evidence that the Tenant Protection Act, which passed in March, is needed to block such behavior by giving defendants a way to combine legally multiple individual charges into a broad charge of “harassment.”
“Not every landlord is trying to push tenants out of their homes. But cases like this are happening all over our city, and we must ensure wronged tenants have the right to confront their harassers in court and put an end to this reckless behavior,” Ms. Quinn said yesterday.
The Tenant Protection Act is being challenged by a lawsuit filed by the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents landlords, arguing that the new “harassment” charges are overly vague and subjective, and thus should be illegal.
A spokesman for the Rent Stabilization Association, Frank Ricci, said yesterday that, assuming the tenants’ claims were true, they could have prosecuted their landlord for his actions under other laws.
“There are already 10 laws on the books that would have covered that,” Mr. Ricci said in an interview. “All this law is going to do is clog up the courts. It will encourage people to make frivolous claims, and legitimate tenants will take a backseat to those without a legitimate claim.”