To the editor:
A very disturbing proposal is currently before the New York City Council. One that could have serious — if not devastating — consequences throughout our neighborhood, the Bronx, and all of New York City.
Intro 2047-A, if passed, would change the city’s administrative code under the guise of “discrimination” (against criminals), and make it an offense to make any inquiries into a person’s arrest record or criminal history while considering the potential purchase, rental or lease of a housing accommodation.
The new proposal would make it an “unlawful discriminatory practice for the owner, lessor, lessee, sublessee, assignee, or managing agent of, or other person having the right to sell, rent, lease or approve the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation … or any real estate broker or agent or employee thereof to … make any inquiry or statement related to arrest record or criminal history in connection with the prospective or continued purchase, rental or lease of a housing accommodation.”
Simply stated, if passed, no inquiry would be allowed into convictions — albeit so serious they resulted in a sentence involving incarceration. As may be expected, continuing this misguided and specious line of thought represented by the writers of Intro 2047-A, neither would an owner, agent or co-op board be allowed to “refuse to sell, rent, lease, approve the sale, rental or lease, or otherwise deny to or withhold from any person such a housing accommodation or an interest therein of such person’s arrest record or criminal history.”
Proponents of the proposed legislation see only the value of granting criminals a second (or third? Or fourth?) chance, but fail to recognize the over-arching issue of the security, well-being and peace of mind for many tens of thousands of law-abiding residents.
While they would champion the rights of convicted recidivist criminals, they would deny safe and secure homes, even as they turn blind eyes to the existing laws that effectively prohibit discrimination in housing.
While we understand and are sympathetic to the idea that many of us deserve “second” chances and opportunities to re-shape and improve our lives — even after proven wrongdoings — we must also appreciate that, under law, co-op and condo boards have important responsibilities to all of their resident-owners — responsibilities that have long been established and upheld by our legislatures and by the judiciary.
The application process currently employed by co-ops may unavoidably reveal missteps in an applicant’s history. This is not unusual, and the right of judgment must remain within the purview of duly elected boards to decide — within existing guidelines — upon its acceptances. The examination of a convicted criminal’s background is — and must remain — an integral part of any review.
The critical importance of maintaining a safe environment for all residents cannot be overstated.
We so often — particularly in recent times — have heard the mantra that “safety is our main concern.” So, too, it is and must remain in decisions regarding housing, where we raise our families, and seek safe harbor each day. Every effort utilizing all of the information and documentation available must always be made to actively strive to ensure everyone’s safety. And, for better or worse in that regard, it is — and must remain — the responsibility of each board of directors to make the tough decisions regarding who moves in, and who does not.
To do so, they need access to all of the information available, specifically including criminal history of convictions of all applicants.
The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums — along with similar organizations representing co-ops, condos and rentals throughout the five boroughs — have voiced ardent opposition to Intro 2047-A, which incredulously has the support of more than two-dozen misinformed and misguided council members.
A complete copy of Intro 2047-A can be found on our organization’s website at ARC-Riverdale.com, and it deserves your immediate attention. It is important that we all review it, consider the far-reaching and potentially dangerous implications of the bill — if passed — and, most importantly, let our representatives in council know of your strong opposition to the proposal.
The author is president of the Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums