“Are you now or have you ever been in Housing Court?” Key step to end “Tenant Blacklists” announced by Senator Kruger

Individuals can end up blacklisted without having done anything wrong. … In addition, with New York City’s tight rental market and soaring property values, unscrupulous landlords routinely bring Housing Court proceedings to harass rent-regulated tenants and drive them from their homes. With the practice of blacklisting, a landlord could merely threaten to name a tenant as a defendant in housing court, and win or lose, that tenant would be faced with a black mark that could make it difficult or even impossible to secure housing in the future.”

It’s good news, sort of. Housing Court will no longer sell tenant names to landlord screening agencies but docket numbers are still  being sold and  earning dough for the scary sausage factory that is our city’s landlord/tenant resolution court. This whole “tenant blacklisting” thing is a little too reminiscent of the paranoid, predatory,  post WWII “Commie Hunting”  McCarthy Era and the late 1940’s/early 1950’s—but without the good clothes.

Dior Gown

The Hollywood 10, Hollywood Blacklist, Ronald Reagan, Gary Cooper 

Gary Cooper

VIDEO:

Here is Senator Kruger’s  April 26, 2012 Press Release:

Victory for Tenants: Sen. Krueger Announces Courts to End Electronic Sale of Housing Court Data Used in “Tenant Blacklists”

New York State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) today announced that the New York State Office of Court Administration will take a key step to end the practice known as “tenant blacklisting.” In a letter, Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti confirmed to Sen. Krueger

New York State Senator Liz Kruger

that the names of individuals named as parties in housing court actions will no longer be sold in electronic form by the New York State Unified Court System as of June 1, 2012. Information regarding individual cases will continue to be available through the Unified Civil Courts’ eCourts website and in the Housing Court clerks’ offices.

The previous unrestricted sale of this data in electronic form to tenant screening companies created what are known as tenant blacklists – databases used by landlords and real estate management agents to discriminate against potential tenants. The availability of these blacklists, maintained by hundreds  of tenant screening companies across the country, has meant that that any landlord could easily discriminate against potential tenants, purely on the basis of their having been named in previous New York City Housing Court proceedings. Sen. Krueger and a coalition of New York City elected officials and tenants’ advocates brought the issue to Judge Prudenti’s attention earlier this year.

Individuals can end up blacklisted without having done anything wrong. Thousands of tenants are named as parties in Housing Court cases each year because their landlords face foreclosure, as the result a government agency failing to pay a rent subsidy on time, or as the result of an error. Even when these cases are quickly dismissed, the tenants’ information remains in the system and is sold to tenant screening companies, causing long-term damage. In addition, with New York City’s tight rental market and soaring property values, unscrupulous landlords routinely bring Housing Court proceedings to harass rent-regulated tenants and drive them from their homes. With the practice of blacklisting, a landlord could merely threaten to name a tenant as a defendant in housing court, and win or lose, that tenant would be faced with a black mark that could make it difficult or even impossible to secure housing in the future.

In practice, tenant blacklisting has had a chilling effect on tenants’ ability to exercise their legal rights. Tenants legally entitled to withhold their rent to enforce their right to safe and habitable housing have had to fear permanent consequences merely from being named in an eviction proceeding, even if their landlord is unsuccessful in the court action itself.

Comments from Advocates and Elected Officials:

“The use of housing court data to promulgate blacklists is just another way massive real estate concerns have twisted the system to pressure tenants and benefit themselves. When the fear of being ‘blacklisted’ causes many tenants to avoid the court and relinquish their legal rights, access to justice is fundamentally  undermined,” said Sen. Krueger. “I applaud Judge Prudenti’s action to protect both New York’s tenants and the integrity of the court system.”

“We are very pleased that the Office of Court Administration has agreed to stop selling the names of litigants sued in Housing Court to anyone, including tenant screening companies,” said Louise Seeley, Executive Director of Housing Court Answers. “This data is used, often unfairly, to deny people housing. This step allows New Yorkers access to the Housing Courts without fear of future discrimination.”

“Tenant ‘blacklisting’ has a chilling effect on the ability of renters to access the courts,” said State Senator Thomas K. Duane (D, WFP-Manhattan). “As an original member of the Tenant Screening Working Group, I am pleased that Judge Gail Prudenti is taking action to help protect due process and tenants’ rights.”

“Securing affordable housing is one of the greatest challenges for working families in New York City and in the communities I represent in the Bronx. The sale of housing court information to tenant screening companies has made it all too easy for New Yorkers to be denied affordable housing,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx). “I want to commend the Office of Court Administration and Judge Gail Prudenti for taking steps to ensure that the thousands of New Yorkers who exercise their right to due process in housing court will not be adversely affected. It is vital that we continue to ensure that there are less barriers for individuals and families looking for safe and affordable housing in New York City.”

“Tenant blacklists are one of the most powerful tools working against tenants today,” said New York City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan), the author of a 2010 city law requiring disclosure where blacklisting firms are being used. “Tenants who assert their rights in court should feel secure that Courts are not going to make it easier for landlords to hold it against them the next time they try to rent an apartment.”

“Landlords have routinely blacklisted tenants based on nothing more than the fact that they may have appeared in Housing Court. Our courts, as public institutions, should not facilitate this unjust practice,” said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), who serves on the Assembly Housing Committee and had joined Senator Krueger, other officials, and tenant advocates in pushing for changes in the Court’s policy. “We are grateful that Judge Prudenti has carefully weighed the competing interests and is taking an important step toward greater fairness for tenants who avail themselves of their right to press their case in Housing Court, as well as those who may find themselves in court against their will.”

“I send my sincere thanks to Judge Prudenti on behalf of all tenants in New York who are afraid to assert their legal rights in the Housing Court system for fear of future retribution. Judge Prudenti’s decision is truly a vital change that will have a long-lasting, immensely positive impact on the lives of thousands of individuals across our city,” said Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan). “Given the advent of the internet, many legal policies that have previously worked smoothly and competently are now failing the very individuals they are designed to protect. With this decision, the Housing Court system acknowledged these issues and changed its practices for the better. I hope other areas of our legal system will follow this example and adapt to today’s changed legal environment for the benefit of all our citizens.”

“At a time when access to affordable housing is at an all-time low in the City, we are grateful that the Office of Court Administration took this important step toward protecting tenants against discrimination in the rental market,” said April Newbauer, Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society’s Queens Neighborhood Office.  “We also thank Senator Krueger for her leadership on this issue.”

“This is a major step forward, both for tenants seeking justice from Housing Court and for New Yorkers looking to find apartments to rent in a tight real estate market,” said David Robinson of the Community Service Society of New York. “Many tenants find themselves in Housing Court through no fault of their own, often because their landlords face foreclosure proceedings or a City agency has failed to pay a shelter allowance or a rent subsidy. These tenants will no longer forfeit the opportunity to find new housing in the future.”

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The Way They Were: Bess Meyerson, Miss America 1945

There are two times in a NYC woman’s life when everyone wants what you’ve got. One is when you’re young and fresh and beautiful. The other is when you’re no longer young and fresh  but your view is still  beautiful.

When all that stands between big loot  for your landlord (millions if it’s a coop/condo,) is you, things can get uncomfortable at best (repairs not made,etc), predatory (illegal evictions) at worst.

I have long advocated for the rights and dignity of senior NYC tenants and plan to add resources and news they and their families can use with a Landlordrocknyc Senior Center section on this blog.  My muse?  America’s first (and only) Jewish Miss America–Bess Meyerson, 1945.

Bess Meyerson, Miss America 1945

I mention her religion because of the Anti-Semitism NYC’s first Consumer Affiair’s Commissioner  and others of her generation faced and worked to overcome. This is from an online bio (sorry, lost my  exact source notes on this one):

“Bess encountered anti-Semitism during the Miss America Pageant, when an official tried to convince her to change her name to one that was less ethnic, suggesting Betty Merrick. Bess refused.

Bess Meyerson,1945

The dark haired statuesque (she was the tallest contestant at 5′ 10″) beauty was the first recipient of a scholarship, but none of the pageant’s sponsors, including Catalina Swimsuits — chose to use the Jewish beauty from the Bronx as a spokesperson.. During her year as Miss America, Ms. Myerson made many personal appearances. One of these was scheduled at an antebellum country club, but just before the event she was told that there had been a terrible mistake, the country club was restricted, and no Jewish person could possibly be welcomed there.

Bess Myerson, determined to fight racial bigotry, traveled around the country speaking in behalf of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, in cooperation with the NAACP and the Urban League.

Many Americans remember Ms. Myerson as Mistress of Ceremonies for “The Big Payof” (1951-9) and as a panelist on “I’ve Got A Secret” (1958-67). From 1969-73 as Commissioner of Consumer Affairs of New York City, Myerson was architect of the most far-reaching consumer protection legislation in the country at that time, and was featured on the cover of Life Magazine (July 16, 1971) as “A Consumer’s Best Friend … Bess Myerson on the prowl for stores that cheat us.”…

…From 1983-7 she served under Mayor Ed Koch as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, where Bess substantially broadened financial support for New York City’s art community.”

As for the messy stuff that came later (incarcerated boyfriend, inexplicable shoplifting of dime store cosmetics,etc) let’s remember maybe the best ending  line of any movie: VIDEO