New York City Council, led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, has introduced legislation that seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to the Housing Preservation Department (HPD).
If passed, the legislation will create an “ombudsman” position within HPD that is responsible for tracking issues with contractors related to wage theft, labor violations, or shoddy construction.
The bill also would refine the language used to describe a responsible contractor to ensure the City does not continue to work with contractors that do not have respect for the law or workers’ rights.
“In a joint Contracts and Housing and Building Committee hearing this April, construction workers on City-funded projects described experiencing racism and sexual abuse on the job, in addition to wage theft. I am deeply disturbed that the City continues to fund projects using contractors with a history of illegal and abusive treatment towards their own workers,” said Contracts Committee Chair Helen Rosenthal, prime sponsor of the bill.
“This bill aims to stop that bad behavior in its tracks and bring more transparency to HPD.”
New York City labor unions and housing advocates have roundly praised the City Council for their efforts to reform HPD.
Robert Bonanza, business manager of the 17,000-member Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York, said the union shared the city’s commitment to ensuring that New York City’s affordable housing programs are conducted with respect for the law and workers’ rights.
The Construction & General Building Laborer’s Local 79 and 100 Black Construction Workers voiced their support for the bill and Edison Severino, Business Manager, Asbestos,
Lead and Hazardous Waste Laborer’s Local 78 said, “With hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars committed to the various affordable housing programs, it is absolutely vital that tighter accountable standards be implemented and that all individuals involved be held to the highest standards. Today, Speaker Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Rosenthal have taken a major step in that direction.”
Matt Ryan, Executive Director of ALIGN said, “Bringing greater accountability to Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is a great step forward in reforming what has long been an agency plagued by the lack of transparent contracting practices.”
“Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal have shown great leadership in protecting our most vulnerable communities with the introduction of Local Law LS4679,” said Cecil Corbin Director of Policy Initiatives at We Act.
“Poor quality construction in our neighborhoods often lead to leaks, mold, and inferior heating systems, all of which can exacerbate the already high levels of asthma we experience. Implementing oversight in the quality of publicly subsidized construction is an important step in how government can be our partner in promoting healthier communities”