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May 14, 2019

State Senate approves nuisance ordinance reform, preserves right to call 911 without housing repercussions

ALBANY ‒ The New York State Senate voted today to approve legislation, A.2665-A (Lavine)/S.465-A (Hoylman), that will ensure all New Yorkers can call for police and emergency services without fear of losing their homes. 
 
Municipalities across New York have nuisance ordinances that penalize people for calling emergency services. These laws allow a municipality to designate a property as a “nuisance” and to impose fines, fees and even shut down properties when it is the site of a designated number of emergency calls or nuisance complaints, regardless of whether the tenant was the victim rather than the perpetrator of the nuisance. 
 
The threat of penalties often leads property owners to evict or threaten to evict tenants, refuse to renew their leases, or instruct tenants to stop calling 911, even when the tenant was the person in need of assistance when calls were placed to authorities. Today’s legislation protects the right to call 911 without penalty or reprisal and provides due process measures for tenants and property-owners to contest the enforcement. The NYCLU joined a coalition of advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Empire Justice Center, and the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in celebrating the passage of the legislation.
 
An August 2018 report by the New York Civil Liberties Union analyzed nuisance enforcement data from localities across New York State and found that such laws are more often enforced in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Studies in New York and Wisconsin have shown that these ordinances are particularly harmful to people who have experienced domestic violence and people with disabilities, who may need to access emergency police or medical services frequently.
 
The following statement is attributable to Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union:
 
“Nuisance ordinances hit communities of color and low-income neighborhoods the hardest, discouraging domestic violence survivors, victims of crimes, and people seeking emergency medical assistance from getting the help that they need. This bill protects access to police and emergency services, and ensures that New Yorkers are not forced to choose between their housing and their safety. The Governor should waste no time in ensuring that these critical protections become law.” 
 
The legislation passed the New York Assembly unanimously on April 9, passed the New York Senate today, and will go to the Governor’s desk. 
 

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