Nearly two decades after a fire claimed the life of an 8-year-old boy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law capping how long a property owner can make court-ordered repairs to an apartment building at 60 days.
Introduced by state Sen. Robert Jackson and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, S.3320/A.2625 is meant to honor the memory of Jashawn Parker, who was killed in a Dekalb Avenue apartment building fire in 2002. The building where the 8-year-old lived had suffered from what the lawmakers described as “extreme deterioration.” And while the landlord was ordered by a judge to make necessary repairs, nothing had been done in the two years leading up to the fire.
Jackson has pushed such legislation since he served on the city council, passing a resolution supporting the bill first introduced by Dinowitz that next year. Dinowitz would then try to push the bill to the governor’s desk, getting a stamp of approval 16 times from his fellow Assembly members, only to see it stall in the state senate where one of his allies, state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, had helped Republicans maintain control of the upper chamber.
“Every year for the past 18 years, I have fought to get some semblance of justice for Jashawn Parker,” Dinowitz said, in a release. “This law will not bring back the life of that young child, but it will hopefully prevent harm for countless others in years to come. I have no patience for any landlord who claims this will cause them financial harm — these are things that every property owner has an obligation to do, and it is only because of their continued negligence that tenants had to seek help from the housing court at all.”
The law, which takes effect Dec. 11, also will limit what judges can consider in granting landlords extensions to ordered repairs. Housing court judges had twice extended the deadline for the landlord of Parker’s apartment building ahead of the accidental electrical fire that ultimately claimed his life, Dinowitz said.
“This bill and the tragedy it came out of have moved me since my early days as a New York City council member,” Jackson said, in a release. “Today, with thanks to Gov. Cuomo for his signature, I am proud to stand alongside Assemblyman Dinowitz to say we did it. When we fight together, we can end landlord neglect.”
With the environment in mind, the city council voted recently on a local resolution that would require large buildings where fewer than 35 percent of units are rent-regulated must comply with greenhouse gas emission limits established by Local Law 97.
City lawmakers say the measure — Intro 1947-A — could cut climate pollution by about 40 percent by 2030, and more than 80 percent by 2050.
The city measure would replace what supporters describe as “outdated” state rent laws that allowed landlords to pass the cost of building upgrades to tenants. The state’s own Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act of 2019 allowed major capital improvement rent increases for rent-stabilized units so long as they made up 35 percent or more of the units in a building.
The bill was part of a package that also included efforts to provide better education to tenants about their rights when it comes to dealing with their landlords. Intro 1339-A would require the city’s social services department to provide written notice to rental assistance program applicants with information about source-of-income discrimination.
The notice, lawmakers say, would provide information about protections under the city’s human rights laws related to discrimination on the basis of a person’s lawful source of income.
“I have seen firsthand the difficulty voucher recipients have in trying to secure housing,” said Mott Haven councilwoman Diana Ayala, in a release.
“Denying someone housing based on the method of income is outright wrong. This local law will now require the Department of Social Services to provide written notice to those potentially eligible for city rental assistance programs, and inform them of their rights and resources available.”