Mayor Bill de Blasio has never really hidden his feelings about private property. Back in 2017 de Blasio gave an interview to New York magazine in which he said, “Our legal system is structured to favor private property.” He then added, “If I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed.” I guess he was serious about that because last Thursday the mayor created an Office to Protect Tenants which would he hopes will ultimately be able to seize private property and hand it over to community nonprofits. From the NY Daily News:
De Blasio created the office mid-speech, pulling out an executive order from beneath his lectern with flourish.
“When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement agents will be on the ground to stop it in time,” he said. “If the fines and the penalties don’t cut it, we will seize their buildings and we will put them in the hands of a community nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”
The executive order de Blasio signed creates the new city office but Reason reports that in order to seize the private property, de Blasio will need a new local law passed.
So what will the Office to Protect Tenants do? De Blasio didn’t really explain, though his executive order says it will serve as a “central resource for tenants, social service agencies, advocacy organizations, legal services providers, landlords and management companies of affordable housing, and others on tenant issues,” including “tenant harassment.”
According to his office’s website, De Blasio is “pursuing new local law to seize upwards of 40 of the most distressed multiple dwelling buildings annually and transition them to responsible, mission driven ownership.” Passage of this legislation would presumably give the Office to Protect Tenants the authority to seize land.
So, it sounds like the sort of expropriation practiced by socialists everywhere. The city already has a program called Third-Party Transfer which does what the Mayor is describing and has for more than a decade. But in practice, some of the people losing their homes haven’t been slum lords at all. From the Brooklyn Reader:
James E. Caldwell, president of the 77th Precinct Community Council and longtime Crown Heights activist, calls it a sham.
“When the city started the program, it was to hold slumlords accountable who didn’t pay their heat or water bills,” said Caldwell. “But the city then expanded the program to people who don’t have any mortgages on the houses anymore. That way, whoever takes over the house doesn’t have to go the bank to pay it off, because it’s already free and clear. They’re stealing from hardworking black folks!”
The problem with TPT, Caldwell explained, is that the homeowners receive no warning when this transfer occurs.
“According to a new law, the homeowners don’t need to be notified anymore,” Caldwell said. “They find out, once the third party takes over their house and sends them a notification requesting rent. This is highway robbery. The city puts the house into foreclosure based on an unpaid water bill or something like that. That makes no sense.”
Once you start down this road, it’s a little hard to stop. After all, if this is really a better way to manage housing, why stop with a few dozen distressed properties? Why not seize some of the glitzier properties around Central Park? I suspect de Blasio himself would be all for it. Here’s a local news report PIX 11 broadcast last month: