Council Votes to Reform Nuisance Abatement Law
The City Council recently passed a package of bills intended to make it harder for the police to evict tenants committing nuisances such as drug dealing. The mayor is expected to sign the package.
The Nuisance Abatement Law (NAL) permits the shuttering of locations including commercial businesses and private residences without notice to the defendant. The law originated in the 1970s as a method of quickly closing down locations that were identified as sites of repeated criminal activity. Over time, concerns have arisen that NAL has been unevenly applied to a broad range of circumstances, often unwittingly targeting individuals who are not connected to the crimes in question. The Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act seeks to reform the practice of nuisance abatement through implementation of clearer guidelines on execution and transparency.
Introduction 1308-A would limit the application of temporary orders pursuant to NAL. These types of orders would be permitted only for nuisances involving prostitution, certain violations of the building code, and problematic commercial locations in which there is a significant risk of imminent physical harm to the public.
Nuisance abatement actions are often filed while actions addressing the same conduct proceed in venues such as the State Liquor Authority, Housing Court, and the New York City Housing Authority. To address these actions, which often lead to identical outcomes for defendants, Introduction 1315-A would require dismissal of a nuisance abatement action if there were any similar legal proceeding in the tribunals of NYCHA or Housing Court, unless the city could establish a “unique and compelling interest” in the NAL action.
Introduction 1317-A would eliminate misdemeanor possession of drugs and all misdemeanors related to marijuana from the nuisance abatement law. Felony possession or sale of drugs and all felonies related to marijuana would remain.
According to its sponsor, Committee on Public Safety Chair Vanessa Gibson, “The Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act will institute important and necessary guidelines for the NYPD and keep innocent New Yorkers from being unjustly barred from their homes or businesses. I thank the Speaker for her leadership and I am proud of the work my colleagues and I have done to restore justice to the justice system.”
Introduction 1318-A would require the Law Department to “verify the ongoing occupancy of those persons alleged to have caused or permitted” nuisances within 15 days of filing a nuisance abatement action. “Verifying that the person responsible for the nuisance is still there before the city takes action will prevent innocent families from wrongful eviction,” said Council Member Barry Grodenchik.