Public safety is the biggest concern of all New Yorkers, and that message was sent loud and clear in November’s statewide elections. The City Council’s response to that? We don’t care.
The average person is completely unaware that the Council is strongly considering one of the most controversial bills in city history, one that is poorly advertised as a measure to help solve the homeless and housing crisis. If Keith Powers’ Intro. 632 is passed by the Council, it would prohibit building owners from performing a criminal background check on prospective tenants at any point in the rental process.
That means that convicted murderers, rapists, arsonists, and pedophiles could be moving next door to you with building owners having no knowledge of their criminal history. The vast majority of property owners believe in second chances, but there is a stark difference between providing a second chance to an individual with one, nonviolent arrest from 20 years ago, compared to someone with multiple convictions of child pornography.
It’s very rare that building owners and tenants act in unison on housing policy, but when it comes to Intro. 632, it’s a safety and quality of life issue that everyone is concerned with. This same exact bill was also considered last year by former Council Member Stephen Levin, but it fell flat on its face when thousands of building owners and tenants pressured their local representative to remove any support from the bill.
This year, the pressure from owners and tenants remains the same, because city residents are even more concerned about crime and rightfully so. According to the NYPD, arrests for the seven major felony crimes were up approximately 29% through August 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Even more alarming, recidivism has significantly increased over the last five years. The NYPD found that for burglary alone, 211 individuals logged at least three arrests for burglary through June 2022, a 142.5 percent increase compared to the first six months of 2017.
The Council has turned a blind eye to this distressing data. Intro. 632 is a perfect example of lawmakers prioritizing political agendas over sound policy. Relevant parties have been willing to negotiate a workable version of this bill, but this current version is a legitimate threat to the safety of all New Yorkers. At a minimum, building owners must continue having the discretion of determining who can rent apartments in their buildings. This is not housing discrimination; this is an obligation that property owners have when it comes to protecting their tenants and providing safe and adequate housing.
Joseph Strasburg is president of the Rent Stabilization Association, which represents 25,000 diverse owners and managers of more than 1 million apartments.