PLEASE NOTE: NAG DOES NOT CURRENTLY PROVIDE TENANT SERVICES ASSISTANCE.
In June of 2010, the NY State Legislature expanded the Loft Law, expansively increasing coverage into North Brooklyn. It is time for us to organize and unite in support of loft tenant’s rights. NAG wants to help you get involved, get informed, know your rights, and help organize your building.
May presentation will be about how to testify at Loft Board hearings. (We have 12 rules & at least 3 hearings upcoming). June presentation will be on how to get repairs through Housing Court.
NAG has been a big proponent of industrial retention and affordable housing. It is our goal to protect the little guy, both small manufacturing and loft tenants. We have advocated continuously for mixed use districting in our neighborhood, supporting standards that allow manufacturing and creative residences to share space safely and effectively. Our neighborhood has the immense pressure of luxury housing constantly looming and we feel that the Loft Law expansion can help alleviate displacement of residents from the Greenpoint & Williamsburg community.
What is a “loft” building? Not to be confused with new luxury loft-style housing peppering the neighborhood, Williamsburg/Greenpoint is filled with numerous buildings that have been used for manufacturing, warehousing, and/or commercial purposes in the past. When artists started moving to this part of Brooklyn more than thirty years ago, a lot of these building were no longer in use and artists began to occupy them as live/work spaces. Over the years, countless residents have moved into lofts in many different types of buildings, some of which still had some kind of manufacturing, warehousing, or commercial use going on in them, while others had been converted solely to residential use. The big problem is that most of these buildings are not zoned for residential occupancy, technically making residential use illegal. In recognition of the fact that so many residents of North Brooklyn & NYC are living safely and happily in lofts that they legally shouldn’t be, the New York State Assemblyman Vito Lopez continually lobbied for and finally passed an expansion of the Loft Law in 2010. This means that loft residents living in Williamsburg & Greenpoint now have a mechanism whereby their building can gain legal residential status and all of the protections that come with it (rent stabilization; the right to basic services; the ability to go to landlord tenant court in the event of a dispute with your landlord, etc).
What is the Loft Law? Initially passed by the New York State Assembly in 1982, it was a way of offering legal residential status to loft residents located mostly in SOHO, Tribeca, & Hells Kitchen. Generally speaking, a building that met the following criteria was covered by the original Loft Law: the building possessed no residential certificate of occupancy pursuant to §301 of the Multiple Dwelling Law, the building was used in the past for manufacturing, commercial, or warehousing purposes, and there were 3 or more residential tenants living in seperate apartments in the building in the 20 month period between April 1, 1980 and December 1, 1981 (the “statutory window period”)
For the exact legal language of the law, check out Multiple Dwelling Law Article 7-C here!
What is the Loft Board? The NYC Loft Board was established in 1982 to regulate and coordinate the legal conversion of certain lofts in the city from commercial/manufacturing use to safe residential use. The Loft Board consists of 9 (voting) members who meet monthly to hear cases and oversee rulemaking. In 2009, the Mayor reorganized the Loft Board to be housed as the Department of Buildings (as opposed to the Mayor’s office). The DOB commissioner and Commissioner of the Fire Department serve on the Board, as well as one member representing manufacturing interests, one member representing the real estate industry, and one member representing loft residential tenants, and four members representing the public. The public members of the Board are appointed by the Mayor and serve for a term of three years.
The current make-up of the Loft Board is:
- Robert D. LiMandri, DOB Commissioner
- Manufacturers’ Representative – Mark Foggin
- Owners’ Representative – Matthew Mayer, Esq.
- Tenants’ Representative – Chuck DeLaney
- Fire Department’s Representative – Chief Ronald Spadafora
- Public Member – Gina Bolden-Rivera
- Public Member – Elliott Barowitz
- Public Member – LeAnn Shelton, AIA, Esq.
- Public Member – Daniel Schachter
In addition, the Loft Board has a staff of 12 divided into 3 units which oversee the work of the agency; the Legalization, Hearings, & Enforcement Units.
What is included in the Loft Law “extension” of 2010? The Loft Law was amended to include lofts that didn’t qualify under the original law. This bill has been introduced every year for over twenty years and almost passed in September 2001. From 2003-2009, a loft law extension has passed only the Assembly; the State Senate had always killed the bill until 2010 when it finally passed. The bill refreshes the Loft Law, which offered no protection for tenants who moved in after 1987. The legislation also made permanent the Loft Law, which until now had to be extended periodically by the Legislature. (The deal also makes the lottery game Quick Draw permanent; the game and the Loft Law have always been linked by Albany lawmakers.) While the original 1982 Loft Law was explicitly limited in geographic scope, the new law seems to default coverage unless specifically excluded. 13 of the city’s 16 Industrial Business Zones were excluded from coverage of the law; however, loft buildings in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg, North Brooklyn and certain areas of the Long Island City IBZ’s can apply for coverage. The rules of the extension are still being promulgated by the Loft Board, meaning that they are still determining how to govern this extension. Once the rules have been promulgated, there will be a six-month period for buildings to apply for coverage. After that time has ended, no building covered by the extension will be able to apply for coverage.
In order to qualify for coverage the following must be true with regards to your building and your particular unit:
- Three or more units in your building must have been put to residential use during any consecutive 12 month period from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009.
- Some portion of your building must have previously been occupied for either manufacturing, warehousing, or commercial purposes.
- Your building must currently lack a residential certificate of occupancy.
- Your unit must have at least one window opening to the street, a yard, or court.
- Your unit must be at least 550 square feet.
- Your unit cannot be located in a basement or cellar.
- Your unit cannot be in a building that, as of June 21, 2010, contained certain uses determined by the Loft Board to be incompatible with residential use.
Please note that these are just the basic bare bones facts; the loft law and the rules are actually rather nuanced and can mean different things to different buildings. We encourage tenants of loft buildings to get informed, learn the law, and to participate in the process by attending Loft Board meetings and NAG Loft Organizing meetings.
There are two ways to begin the process of gaining Loft Law coverage for your building: Your landlord can register the building with the Loft Board or as a tenant, you can apply for coverage with the Loft Board.
The application can be found here. Warning!! We do not recommend that you file an application without talking to your neighbors and/or building owner, forming a tenant association, and researching the small print of this law!! Once you file for coverage, all affected parties–everyone from the building owner to the other residents of the building– will be served with legal papers. This can be very disconcerting and can get the process of to a bad start without forewarning. However, if you are facing a rent hike or eviction, it is usually in your best interest to file immediately.
How do I organize my building? If you live in a loft building, NAG wants to help you get organized and claim your tenant rights. Please join us at our monthly informational meeting. If you have questions in the meantime, please email our tenant organizer, Ryan Kuonen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots more information about the Loft Law can be found at the NYC Loft Board website