Joined by impacted tenants and housing lawyers, BP Adams announces lawsuit to monitor heating-related harassment in apartments
On Thursday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined impacted tenants and housing lawyers in announcing a lawsuit based on data from an expanding technology partnership to monitor heating-related harassment in Brooklyn apartment buildings. Standing outside 178 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, a property that has had numerous heat complaints through 311, they discussed how residents across the borough are utilizing sensors from Heat Seek NYC, the winner of the NYC BigApps 2014 contest, to remotely track the temperature in their homes during the winter months.
Their technology, using sensor hardware and web applications, helps ensure that heat levels in apartments fall within the legal range while providing data-based evidence to verify heating code abuse claims in housing court. Adams first forged connections back in 2014 between this locally based nonprofit and a number of properties managed by good-acting landlords such as Fifth Avenue Committee, who agreed to use the technology on a proactive monitoring basis. Now, as part of his larger focus on combating tenant harassment, he detailed $5,000 in new funding his office has allocated to build additional monitoring hardware at five buildings across the borough, including 178 Rockaway Parkway.
“My message to landlords across Brooklyn is that we’re watching; don’t harm your tenants’ quality of life all because of greed,” said Adams. “Combating tenant harassment has been a hallmark of my administration, and we are tackling this challenge through traditional and groundbreaking approaches alike. We are using cool technology to warm the homes of Brooklynites, while putting bad-acting landlords on the hot seat for their harassing behavior. I am proud to work with the innovative team at Heat Seek NYC, our incredible legal advocates, as well as courageous tenants throughout the borough that are standing up for their housing rights.”
Underscoring the imperative for addressing this issue, Adams presented 311 data that highlighted problem neighborhoods for residential heating complaints citywide, which correspond heavily with areas of economic hardship and gentrification. Between October 2015 and May 2016, the Brooklyn ZIP code with the highest number of complaints was 11226, covering Ditmas Park and Flatbush; other ZIP codes that experienced a high number of heating issues, per the data, included 11207, 11208, 11210, 11212, 11213, 11216, 11221, 11225, 11233 and 11238.
“Heat Seek is grateful for the support of Borough President Adams, and is excited to partner with his office and community advocates throughout the borough to target landlords who abuse their tenants by withholding heat,” said Noelle Francois, executive director of Heat Seek NYC.
The buildings selected for the expansion of this partnership were chosen through a combination of variables, including the number of 311 complaints, community input to identify bad actors and looking at the next 200 landlords who are not currently enrolled in the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP). Adams explained that he is only identifying 178 Rockaway Parkway as a recipient in order to put all landlords in the borough “on notice.” According to Heat Seek NYC, 178 Rockaway Parkway had at least seven heating complaints in the last 96 hours, as well as more than 100 heating complaints during the 2014-15 winter. The sensors that have been deployed in the building for several weeks have reflected a variety of temperature readings below the legal minimum.
“The lack of heat is a serious problem for low-income tenants in New York City,” said Sunny Noh, supervising attorney for the Tenant Rights Coalition of the Legal Aid Society. “The tenants of this building have complained of inadequate heat for years to no avail. It is a common tactic for some landlords to routinely turn up the heat when HPD is scheduled to inspect their buildings, sometimes making it difficult for HPD to place violations for inadequate heat during the winter months. With the assistance of Heat Seek NYC, tenants and tenant advocates are able to monitor temperatures in apartments throughout the heating season and use this information to hold this landlord accountable.”
Adams also outlined legislative action he will be working on with the City Council, in particular Councilmember Ritchie Torres, which would allow for the installation of heat sensors in apartment buildings, as well as for their utilization as a means to combat heating-related abuse by bad-acting landlords. Additionally, Adams announced a training partnership between New York City Housing Court and Heat Seek NYC that will train housing court judges on how to interpret data collected by heat monitors.
“Technology such as heat sensors can help policymakers better understand how tenants are being impacted by heat violations in their own homes, and help inform new legislation,” said Torres. “I look forward to partnering with Borough President Adams to ensure tenants are protected and violations are tackled properly.”
—Information from the Borough President’s office