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A group of tenants’ rights advocates, local politicians, and concerned citizens are set to meet in Williamsburg tonight in an effort to strengthen the state’s long-standing Loft Law. They need all the help they can get.
First enacted by the New York State Legislature in 1982, the Loft Law was designed to protect those living in formerly industrial spaces from various kinds of landlord malfeasance. Tenants who could prove they’d been living continuously in a space for at least twelve months during the window of eligibility — initially 1980–81 — and met certain other requirements were now entitled to a slew of protections including rent stabilization, protection from eviction, and enforcement of building safety codes.
“The Loft Law protects the live-work creative spaces that are one of the many lifebloods of this great city,” says Brooklyn-based musician, record label owner, and Loft Law supporter Arthur Purvis.
In 2010, a group of state lawmakers, including the late assemblyman Vito Lopez managed to update the window of eligibility to 2008–09, add additional protections, and expand the law’s jurisdiction to Brooklyn.
However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg swooped in at the last minute and used his clout to add a bunch of amendments known as “the Bloomberg exclusions.”
“Mayor Bloomberg inserted language that weakens the law and eventually sunsets its protections entirely,” Purvis says. “And not only do those protections need to be preserved, they need to be expanded.” Such is life in a state controlled by multibillion-dollar real estate interests.
With the 2017 Loft Law “Clean-Up” Bill, advocates hope to restore the law to its former glory and then some with measures including:
With tonight’s rally, tenants and their advocates hope to demonstrate widespread support for the bill and get New York’s more recalcitrant politicians on board — a group that includes Mayor Bill de Blasio. Despite running on a promise of affordable housing, our current mayor has yet to even make a statement on the only law currently on the books that can convert preexisting market rate housing into rent-stabilized housing with the stroke of a pen.
“We hope the strong support we already have in Albany for the improved Loft Law will encourage Mayor de Blasio to take a position on this vital tenant protection,” says artist and New York City Loft Tenants member Eve Sussman. “His silence on the issue would seem to be antithetical to his stated goal of adding 250,000 units of affordable housing. The mayor must be made aware that by repealing the application deadline, the Loft Law adds affordable housing at no cost to the city.”
Purvis, too, has strong words for the mayor, whom he says “is allowing this vital tenant protection to expire and the creative community of Brooklyn to slowly suffocate.” And even if you question the value of loft-dwelling artists, Purvis says, the issue is relevant to larger struggles for affordable housing in New York.
“The Loft Law is the front line in the eternal landlord-versus-tenant struggle,” he maintains. “There are powerful forces at work seeking to get rid of all rent protections in this city and decimate whatever neighborhoods happen to be hot real estate this minute, and every single inch of land matters in this kind of trench warfare.”
Tonight’s rally will be held at the San Damiano Mission at 85 North 15th Street, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
If you’re curious as to whether your apartment would qualify for protection under the Loft Law, you can find out here. The current deadline to apply is June 15, and the application process is somewhat complicated.