Where’s the Outreach?

Over the past two years, the NYC Department of Buildings has waged a major campaign against illegal conversions, handing out tens of thousands of flyers warning tenants about the dangers of living in illegally converted apartments. Yet for the Loft Law, the principal way to legalize commercial buildings as residences, the outreach has consisted of a few information sessions with tenants in North Brooklyn, and an undistributed FAQ flyer which until very recently contained a glaring typo in the eligibility window period.

Why is the city unwilling to put in a fraction of the effort to let tenants know how they can make their buildings safe, that it puts into warning them about the danger?

The answer is historical. The original Loft Law covered just certain areas, and after 30 years, approximately two-thirds of the buildings have completed the legalization process. The Loft Board expected to finally shut its doors, so its staff has shrunk from a few dozen to six employees.

Then the Loft Law Expansion passed. But all the money this law will generate from fees, permits, and fines goes into the General Fund, and the Loft Board is still critically understaffed. So this tiny staff must grapple with hundreds (and we hope thousands) of Loft Law applications. The response time for receiving a docket number has stretched to 6-8 weeks. They do not have the time to patiently answer questions from tenants or organizers. All of their effort is apparently going into writing the new rules.

We would like to see the Loft Board better funded, but in today’s economic and political climate, this is unlikely. So it falls to tenant organizations such as NYCLT, NAG, DNA, and EWBLTA (RBSCC) to educate NYC residents about the Loft Law, and it takes a lot of time for people to understand this complex law. There has been no outreach outside of Brooklyn, nor even outside of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and DUMBO.

Let us know if you’re from a Tenant, Artist, or Neighborhood organization and would like to help get out the word!

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