By Patrick Hedlund
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gathered with fellow colleagues and Downtown residents this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the Councils passage of the Tenant Protection Act, which created a host of new safeguards for tenants targeted for eviction by landlords.
Rafael Cestero, the new commissioner of the citys Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Councilmember Rosie Mendez and a group of Chinatown residents and advocates joined Quinn at City Hall on Monday to explain how the new legislation has helped tenants find legal redress for various forms of harassment imposed by landlords.
Were here today to mark this because, although we know that most landlords in our city are treating their tenants well, there are some [tenants] who had to bear terrible, terrible harassment at the hands of their landlords, Quinn said. Just unimaginable treatment.
In addition to the more standard forms of tenant harassment, including landlords turning off heat and hot water and pursuing frivolous eviction lawsuits against residents, Quinn highlighted one case in Brooklyn where a landlord left a bag of dead cats in a vacant apartment to stink up the building.
Were also here to send a message to tenants that if you believe you are being harassed, you no longer have to bear that harassment without legal recourse, Quinn added.
For example, a group of about 25 working-class Chinese and Latino tenants living at 55 and 61 Delancey St. filed a harassment lawsuit after their landlord called the police to disrupt tenant meetings, stopped accepting rent checks and tried to pursue eviction proceedings, and even ordered tenants to remove Chinese cultural decorations from their doors.
I think it says something about their character that theyve been able to endure all this harassment and still want to stay and protect their homes that theyve lived in for so long, Wang added.
Quinn said that since the inception of the legislation, there have been 90 rulings forcing landlords to make repairs or pay penalties and 33 rulings stating harassment had occurred.
This anniversary is important, Quinn said. Its important because we have documentation that this law is helping tenants.
Nightlife impresario/Justin Timberlake confidant Eytan Sugarman has yet to find a space to house his newest club venture after dropping efforts to secure an address on the outskirts of the Meatpacking District in the face of staunch community opposition.
The club and restaurant owner withdrew his plans for a nightspot in the former Manor space on Eighth Ave. between 13th and 14th Sts. after a coalition of area residents and business owners amassed 650 signatures as part of a petition against the proposed operation.
I didnt want to enter into that kind of climate, Sugarman said of deciding to bail on the location. Ill let the next guy do it.
While he would like to find a space in the same neighborhood, he noted any future deal would depend on a suitable location becoming available, rather than a rush to open. Sugarman wouldnt rule out looking farther Downtown in Hudson Square, where the recent openings of new nightlife venues like Greenhouse and City Winery have brought more club clout to the former manufacturing area. In fact, a recent report had him sniffing around the space occupied by the restaurant Steak Frites on Varick and Clarkson Sts.
That areas definitely improved a lot in recent years, Sugarman said, acknowledging, though, it wouldnt be my first choice.
However, after The Villagers Scoopys Notebook ran an item two weeks ago detailing Sugarmans abandoned attempt at opening on Eighth Ave., a spokesperson called to make clear that the would-be venue would not be pursued with Timberlake on board.
While JT and Sugarman are best buds and co-creators of the Upper East Side restaurant Southern Hospitality, the Grammy winner has no stake in this latest hoped-for club venture, explained Sugarman, who owned the now-defunct nightclub Seude in Chelsea
I dont think its something hed want to attach himself to, Sugarman said of Timberlakes (non)involvement. Hes my best friend, and hed certainly come visit me there.
Sugarman is also shopping around for space to open a sister location for his barbecue restaurant, recently eyeing a site in Chelsea, where he lives.
Ive been living in that community for a long time, he said of his residence on W. 18th St. I think I have my finger on the pulse of what works and what doesnt.