BRONX, NY – In a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. has thrown his support behind recent litigation filed on behalf of public housing tenants in New York City. The court action seeks financial relief to New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) tenants who went without heat and/or hot water during this past winter. The borough president is demanding that the administration back off its defense against the lawsuit and meet its legal obligation to its tenants.
“Landlords in New York City have a responsibly to their tenants to deliver basic services and amenities. NYCHA is no different than any other landlord, and should be treated as such,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “Tenants that went without heat and hot water during a bitterly cold winter should be compensated with lower rent, and the city should not be fighting to ignore its financial responsibilities in court.”
The borough president’s letter comes in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Legal Aid Society and Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in State Supreme Court against NYCHA. The lawsuit demands that the agency issue rent abatements and immediate boiler repairs for residents who went without heat and hot water during the winter cold spell from December 27, 2017 to January 16, 2018.
In his letter, Borough President Diaz notes that NYCHA broke both City and State law by failing to provide reliable heat and/or hot water to its tenants during that cold spell. Under the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, heat must be provided between October 1 and May 31 when temperatures fall below a certain degree. Additionally, the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law requires owners to provide both hot and cold water 24 hours a day.
“When housing is not habitable, there should be consequences. Fighting tooth and nail to avoid the legal requirements of the agency is wrong, and will only serve to further erode the reputation of NYCHA among its more than 400,000 residents, if not all New Yorkers,” wrote Borough President Diaz in the letter. “It is a matter of principle, ethics, and law— these tenants deserve compensation that accounts for a lack of basic services.”