The city needs to protect those without the financial stability to protect themselves. The city needs to take the hammer from predatory landlords and give it back to the disenfranchised to build their lives back up again.
It starts, with a well-funded task force to actively investigate each complaint that a tenant – especially one in a rent-stabilized situation, as they are the common target – levies against a landlord.
Since Bill de Blasio took office, the city has been stronger in favor of tenant’s rights, creating a worst landlords watch list. Now, they need a task force that has the authority to take quick action to make sure no one is living in the conditions like the tenants of the Israel brothers.
In the case of tenants in Bushwick, living in rent-stabilized apartments owned and operated by the Israel brothers, there was rightful public outcry. The brothers appear to have taken it to a level that was impossible to ignore.
But how many in this city are living with cold showers or a bone-chilling draft inside their home, which a landlord won’t fix, hoping to get the building condemned or praying the long-term tenant will flee for a better situation?
The rights of individual tenants becomes increasingly important as rents rise precipitously throughout the city. Rent stabilization keeps a sense of community and lets long-term residents keep their roots deep into the ground.
Allowing landlords to walk all over those tenants is criminal.
After establishing a task force, the city and state need to create criminal law, making the intentional destruction of property by a landlord a felony crime. If a small drop in the financial bucket of a wealthy landlord isn’t a disincentive, maybe jail time would be.
Whatever the total punishment, it’s clear that not enough is being done when it took years from first report for the Israel brothers to be indicted.