Albany, NY – In less than one month, tenants will have one extra tool in the fight against bad landlords thanks to legislation from State Senator Robert Jackson and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. The newly signed law establishes a 60-day maximum for deadlines of property owners to make court-ordered repairs on their property and is the culmination of a nearly two-decade effort to honor the life of an 8-year-old child who died in a Bronx fire in 2002. The child, Jashawn Parker, lived in a building where tenants had long decried extreme deterioration, but repairs were not made despite multiple court orders over the course of at least two years.
The new law (A2625/S3320) also creates a “good cause shown” threshold for judges to grant extensions beyond the 60-day period. In the case of Jashawn Parker, tenants and advocates had been pushing for remediation of nearly 400 code violations – including for leaks and electrical problems. Housing Court judges granted at least two rulings that extended the property owner’s deadline to make needed repairs before the accidental electrical fire occurred.
Shortly after the fire, then-City Council Member Jackson passed a City Council resolution in support of then-new legislation from Assemblyman Dinowitz. The legislation went on to pass in the Assembly sixteen times but continued to not receive support from the State Senate. Uncoincidentally, with a new majority in leadership, it finally passed both chambers on the lucky seventeenth try in 2020.
The new law will take effect after thirty days, which will be on December 11, 2020.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: “Every year for the past eighteen years I have fought to get some semblance of justice for Jashawn Parker. This law will not bring back the life of that young child, but it will hopefully prevent harm for countless others in years to come. I have no patience for any landlord who claims this will cause them financial harm – these are things that every property owner has an obligation to do, and it is only because of their continued negligence that tenants had to seek help from Housing Court at all. I am deeply appreciative of State Senator Jackson for his longtime support of my bill, and thank you to Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law.”
State Senator Robert Jackson said: “This bill and the tragedy it came out of have moved me since my early days as a New York City Council Member, when I passed that resolution calling on the New York State legislature to require landlords to make court-ordered repairs within 60 days of those orders Assemblyman Dinowitz introduced this legislation and fought valiantly for it ever since, but it was blocked by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and the law went nowhere. Today, with thanks to Governor Cuomo for his signature, I am proud to stand alongside Assemblyman Dinowitz to say we did it. When we fight together, we can end landlord neglect!”
John Reilly, Executive Director of Fordham-Bedford Housing Corporation, said: "The conditions on DeKalb Avenue were allowed to exist for too long. It shouldn't have taken such a terrible tragedy to get action. This law will help get repairs made in a timely manner."
Jessica Bellinder Supervisor of Legal Aid Society’s Bronx Housing Justice Unit - Group Advocacy said: “Lower income tenants are entitled to safe and healthy homes and they often can’t just move when their buildings deteriorate. The 7A law is a powerful and underutilized tool for organized tenants to put maximum pressure on negligent landlords. Tenant initiated 7A cases are usually started after tenants have tried every other way to get their landlords to maintain their building safely. Time is of the essence in these cases. We work with tenants without heat, gas or hot water, with rotting roofs, severe mold, rodent infestations and other dangerous conditions. Changes to the 7A law that hold landlords and courts to a reasonable time frame for repairing the property or forcing the landlord to step aside are welcome. The Legal Aid Society thanks Assembly Member Dinowitz and Senator Jackson for their support for this legislation that strengthens the tenant protections of the 7A law.”
TakeRoot Justice staff attorney Greg Baltz said: “Although the 7A law as written says a judge may strip a landlord of control of their building if they have allowed conditions dangerous to the life, health, and safety of tenants to exist for five days, in reality the court procedures and trials involved with a 7A proceeding drag that process out over months. Even after a landlord has failed to use those months to make repairs, the 7A law gave them second, third, and fourth bites at the apple before a judge would appoint an independent administrator to do the job the landlord wouldn’t. We greatly appreciate State Senator Jackson and Assemblyman Dinowitz for fighting for changes to the 7A law that will incentivize landlords to address dangerous conditions in a timely manner and prevent future tragedies.”
Joshua Stephenson, Executive Director of West Bronx Housing & Neighborhood Resource Center, said: "Sally Dunford of West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center spent two years petitioning Housing Court for a new administrator for 3569 Dekalb Avenue, and ten years later, instead of celebrating Jashawn Parker’s graduation from High School in 2012, she was fundraising for a headstone so his father could more easily find his son’s grave. Thanks to the leadership of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and State Senator Robert Jackson, when property owners abandon their property or delay on much needed repairs, tenants and their advocates will now have the means to mandate those repairs in a timely manner instead of waiting for tragedies like Jashawn Parker's to strike again."
The press conference can be seen in full here: https://youtu.be/iKqikH-VqLI