Join HCC in its fight to keep our neighborhood diverse, affordable and livable for all its residents. We conduct our community campaigns in concert with the membership organization we sponsor, the West Side Neighborhood Alliance. Click here to find out more about the West Side Neighborhood Alliance. Our current campaigns include
All over the city landlords are renting out residential apartment to tourists visiting New York for short-term stays. This practice is illegal, as the buildings are not zoned or coded to be hotels, but permanent residences. However, running an illegal hotel can be profitable, and many landlords are getting away with it. Unfortunately, illegal hotels are destructive to our community; tenants feel their safety and quality of life threatened as strangers come and go through their building, landlords who operate illegal hotels often harass legitimate tenants to force them out of the building, and our neighborhood loses affordable housing every time a landlord illegally converts an apartment into a hotel room. In June 2008 the Illegal Hotel Working Group released a report detailing the extent and impact of the illegal hotel industry on residential tenants and the city as a whole. A copy of the report is available at this link: IHWG_Report_2008.
HCC is working with local elected officials to better empower government agencies to enforce the law against illegal hotels in residential buildings.
As we launched our campaign, we hosted a town hall meeting in collaboration with the West Side SRO Law Project and our new membership organization, the West Side Neighborhood Alliance. More than 250 Manhattanites gathered to share their concerns with our local elected officials, and the strong reaction from the community galvanized the City into action.
Mayor Bloomberg funded the Mayor's Office of Special Enforcement, hired a new director and charged it with investigating the illegal hotels problem. So far, the Mayor's office has investigated various illegal hotel buildings and brought one landmark lawsuit, winning the first-ever injunction against a hotel in a residential building.
But the current laws are not strong enough to effectively curb the problem. HCC is working with members of the City Council and the State Assembly and State Senate to write stronger laws, increasing penalties for illegal use and clarifying the zoning that prohibits hotels in residential buildings.
Click here to see news coverage of our work on illegal hotels.
11th Avenue development (including the P.S. 51 Site)
As development pressure moves westward through our neighborhood, community residents are increasingly worried that 11th Avenue will lose its low-rise, mixed-use character. We want to encourage appropriate development on 11th Avenue and the nearby side streets, and guarantee that future development fits the community's vision of a mixed-income residential neighborhood.
HCC is working with members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, members of Manhattan Community Board 4, the Department of City Planning and our local elected officials to protect existing tenants along 11th Avenue and nearby streets and institute a community-driven rezoning that will limit building height and require affordable housing in new developments.
Members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, the membership group HCC sponsors, have already compiled up-to-date information about potential development sites in the western portion of our neighborhood and developed a working relationship with Community Board leaders to address our issues of concern. As the rezoning process moves forward, HCC and its community partners in WSNA will organize and mobilize community members so that the many neighborhood stakeholders can all participate in the official land use review process.
As we work on the rezoning, we continue to pressure the City and the local real estate developer to make good on their promise to develop 600 affordable apartments on the P.S. 51 affordable housing site, on West 45th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. HCC is working to guarantee that a suitable site plan can be developed that will produce the necessary affordable apartments, allow for a new elementary school to replace the outmoded P.S. 51, and meet community needs for low-density, contextual development.
Click here to see some of WSNA and HCC's work on the 11th Avenue corridor.
After working hard to defeat the plan for a football stadium on the West Side Rail Yards, HCC is now working to guarantee that future development fits the community's needs, including affordable housing, reasonable density and sufficient open space that will serve the broader community.
HCC is working with the West Side Neighborhood Alliance to involve neighborhood residents in planning the future of the rail yards. There are many powerful forces at play in determining the site's development, but our goal is to guarantee that community members play an integral role in that public policy conversation.
The 421-a Program provides a real-estate tax abatement for new construction and improvements over a period ranging between 10-25 years, depending on when the building was built and in what neighborhood. The program has been changed many times since its introduction in 1971, as the housing market recovered and then boomed. In its most recent iteration, a developer in NYC seeking 421-a tax abatements is required to develop 20% of the units as housing affordable to those earning less than 80% Area Median Income. Matters relating to these affordable units become complicated because the exact same units created as a result of the 421-a program are often overlaid with a number of other subsidy programs for the same 20% affordable units (commonly referred to as the “double-dip” or “triple-dip”). The length of the affordability restriction, as well as the rights of tenants at the expiration of the affordability restriction, vary depending on the combination of programs used to finance the building and the year that the building was built.
HCC has found that the tenants living in the affordable units are often misinformed about their rights. Lease riders are frequently incorrect; for example, they often state that the unit’s rent will revert to market rate at the expiration of the tax benefit, when in fact the tenant may have the right to remain as a rent stabilized tenant and may include an supplemental 2.2% rent increase that should only be applied to market-rate rents.
At the same time, tenants report that many 421-a buildings use a heating system that requires the activation an in-unit electric blower (which is connected to their personal electric utility account) to bring heat from a central gas heating system into their individual units, creating utility bills in excess of $100 - $200 a month just to heat their units in the winter. Further, because these systems combine gas and electric systems for heating, the tenants’ utility accounts are coded for ‘gas-heating’ as opposed to ‘electric-heating’ (to account for the necessary electric blower). Tenants therefore are not eligible for enhanced Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefit for heating costs.
To address these issues, HCC has nearly completed an inventory of all buildings built using 421-a tax abatements. We determined that more than 3,500 affordable units on the west side will expire over the next two decades. HCC has begun to develop a program to educate and support 421-a tenants to understand and exercise their rights to remain in these affordable units and afford appropriate heat utilities. Over the next year, HCCs organizer will work with 12 buildings that will approach expiration within the next 5-10 years, proactively educating tenants building-by-building about their specific rights according to the regulatory agreements and obtaining corrected lease riders for all impacted tenants. HCC will also work with utility companies to correctly code utility accounts in these buildings, making tenants eligible for low-income utility subsidies. Finally, HCC will train organizers and attorneys in dealing with 421-a associated housing issues, and convene 421-a tenants and advocates for a conference to discuss legislative reforms to the program to ensure standardized amenities, utilities subsidies, enhanced and extended affordability, and language clarity for leases and lease riders.
HCC is a member of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (hyperlink to the site), a citywide coalition of community organizations who are fighting to protect the lives and homes of New York City tenants where landlords are using construction as harassment.
HCC and other members of the Coalition organize, advocate for, and support individuals who report that their landlords use dangerous or negligent construction as a way to harass them out of their rent-regulated units. Landlords have a particular incentive to find ways to push rent-regulated tenants out: when rent-regulated units are vacated, they which can often then be rented at far higher market rates, exacerbating the dearth of affordable housing stock in New York City.
Stand for Tenants Safety Coalition members and tenants around New York City report:
-Collapsed ceilings in their homes;
-Children inhaling lead contaminated dust;
-Incapacitated seniors stumbling on cracked floors and obstructive pile-ups of construction debris;
-Having no heat or hot water in freezing temperatures; and
-Not being able to exit the building because the staircase was removed with little to no notice.
To address these concerns, HCC, Other Coaltion Members, and tenants across the city organize against predatory construction practices, educate one another on their rights, advocate for legal and legislative redress, and demand systemic reform of the Department of Buildings to ensure tenants and their families are safe in their homes, rent-regulated or otherwise.
HCC is working with West Side Section 8 tenants to preserve their access to the decent, affordable housing where they are currently living. The federal government is cutting back on Section 8, one of our country's most successful affordable housing programs. We are working with tenants to preserve their own buildings and demand that the City and State work with our communities to preserve Section 8 buildings citywide.
In 2005, and earlier this year, HCC helped organize two rallies that brought together more than 1,000 Section 8 tenants from the five boroughs, along with housing advocacy groups and elected officials. We worked with the "Save Our Homes" Coalition to ask Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council to put resources into building acquisition, tenant organizing and the defense of Local Law 79, which gives tenants the right to purchase their building if the landlord attempts to opt out of the Section 8 program.
The result of the community effort is that almost every Section 8 building in Hell's Kitchen/Clinton has renewed its contract for 20 more years of housing affordability. We continue to work with tenants and the landlords of the two complexes that remain, Clinton Manor and the Grenadier Buildings, to reach an agreement that keeps the buildings affordable to their residents.
Click here to see news stories about the Section 8 buildings and the tenants we work with.
Other HCC Issues
By law, tenants are not required to move out of their apartments if a landlord wishes to renovate their building. If, however, a landlord decides to demolish and construct a new building, tenants must vacate their apartments. In order to demolish, a landlord must file a claim with the Department of Buildings. In the case of a phony demolition, a landlord files for permission to demolish, and forces the tenants to leave, but, in fact, just renovates the building. HCC is working with local elected officials and housing groups from around the city go ensure that landlords cannot force tenants out of their apartments by pretending to plan a building demolition.
Tenant harassment is a frequent occurrence, not just in Hell's Kitchen, but all over the city. Frivolous lawsuits, intimidation, and refusal of services are just some of the forms of harassment many tenants face. As it stands, harassment is not grounds for a lawsuit filed by a tenant. HCC organizers are working with the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development and other community organizations to strengthen tenants' rights on this issue. The proposed legislation seeks to make harassment a cause of action under which a landlord can be sued.
Current Fair Housing Laws in New York City protect tenants against discrimination based on race, gender, or national origin. However, families or individuals who receive assistance, such as those on Social Security, Section 8, HASA or HRA, can be denied housing for receiving this support. New York City Council Intro. 61 is a bill that can end discrimination against tenants using lawful income to pay their rent. HCC is working with Pratt Area Community Council , The Legal Aid Society, Coalition for the Homeless, NY Acorn, Citywide Taskforce on Housing Court, Tenants & Neighbors, and Woodside on the Move to urge the City Council to pass Intro 61.