Tenant advocates fuming over comments Deputy Mayor Vicki Been made about a failed good-cause eviction bill claim her “tone-deaf quips” merit a boot from City Hall.
The bill, which would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants unless they have a legitimate reason to do so — like not paying rent or rowdy behavior — and also limits rent hikes, failed to pass the state legislature though several other pro-tenant protections were ratified in June.
“While Deputy Mayor Vicki Been makes tone deaf quips about vital protections for tenants, families across New York each day are kicked off their leases and evicted from their homes because our state offers no good cause recourse,” New York Communities for Change director Jonathan Westin and Citizen Action of New York’s statewide housing organizer Rebecca Garrard said in a joint statement.
Been, who’s back working for Mayor de Blasio after leaving her post as Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner for a job at New York University, made the remark that advocates found offensive during a breakfast forum last Tuesday.
“I’m not sure what the problem is that we’re actually trying to solve,” Been was quoted as saying in Crain’s about the “good cause” bill. “I want to be sure that the solution is a solution that fits the problem, and is not just a solution that we borrowed from another city or is a flavor of the day.”
In April, the British government enacted a policy prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants without a legit reason or on short notice. In New York City last year, 9,512 residential evictions took place in buildings that didn’t fall under rent-regulation status, about 53% of evictions citywide, according to an analysis by the tenant rights group justfix.nyc.
“If this Administration is still serious about boldly addressing our affordable housing problem, it’s tough to fathom what role Been will continue to play given her position on critical housing issues facing New Yorkers,” Westin and Garrard said.
De Blasio spokeswoman Jane Meyer and others defended Been.
“She fought for stronger tenant protections up in Albany and is working every day here in the city to keep tenants in their homes," Meyer said. "These attacks are offensive, and we stand by Vicki.”
Colvin Grannum, president of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., said he’s worked with Been for more than a decade and has disagreed with her at times, but has never questioned her intentions.
“There’s room in this city to come up with different solutions,” he said.
There was no immediate response to requests for comment from City Hall.