Brannan Co-Introduces Bill Creating Illegal Conversion Task Force  

The king against illegal conversions

Councilman Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach) joined Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) today in introducing legislation creating a task force to monitor and report on illegal conversions and occupancies across the five boroughs.

The interagency task force would encompass and coordinate action between the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), Office of Special Enforcement, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Department of Buildings (DOB), the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), and the Department of City Planning (DCP).

Additionally the task force would include one member appointed by the Public Advocate and three by the City Council Speaker.

Justin Brannan
City Council Member Justin Brannan

“Illegal conversions are a dangerous, exploitative practice of greedy, lawbreaking landlords. I support the existing City law that fines landlords for creating these illegal apartments, which cause unsafe, poor living conditions that no tenant wants. I believe we should do everything we can to further deter bad actors for ignoring the needs of their tenants and neighbors in favor of an extra buck,” said Brannan.

Illegal conversions are defined as three or more illegal dwelling units being created within one structure, which threaten the safety of occupants and neighbors.

These dwellings are almost always constructed without DOB permits and, in the event of an emergency, endanger both residents and first responders who arrive on the scene expecting a different floor plan.

These homes often create a host of issues in buildings that fall under the purview of several different agencies. The new measure would address past problems with enforcing illegal conversions by alleviating the issue of competing jurisdictions.

“I got into this job because I want to fight for all of my constituents, new and old. But landlords who break the law to be unfair to their tenants have no place doing business in my district or in our City. This task force will make us better, smarter, and faster at dealing with these violations of law,” added Brannan.

In recent years, the growth of illegal conversions has risen due to the housing crisis. According to figures from May 2017, there were almost 60,000 individuals living in shelters not including those living on the streets.

In June of 2016, FDNY and DOB inspectors raided a two-family home that was subdivided into a five-family residence that left 31 residents (18 adults, 13 children) virtually homeless. The house at 6705 7th Avenue was given an immediate vacate order because of a lack of egress (exits), fire safety, compromised plumbing, electrical and gas work; and overcrowding.

Having been introduced to the Council, the bill will now go to committee hearings before it can go to a vote on the Council floor.