AG Schneiderman's office does not track 421-a tenant complaints, denies FOIL request

By LOUIS FLORES

The office of the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York) answered a request filed under the Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, submitted by Progress Queens, seeking records about complaints filed by tenants of 421-a affordable housing with his office.

The FOIL request also sought records pertaining to possible referrals, resolutions, or other dispositions of the such complaints that had been filed with the State Attorney General's Office.

According to the response returned by the State Attorney General's Office, the office informed Progress Queens that the records could not be located based on the information provided by Progress Queens in its request.

The response to the FOIL request stated that since the records of the State Attorney General's Office "are not indexed in a manner that would enable the identification and location of documents" responsive to the FOIL request submitted by Progress Queens, the State Attorney General's Office concluded that the FOIL request submitted by Progress Queens "must be denied."

The response letter was signed on behalf of the State Attorney General's Office by Bruce Feldman, the state's assistant attorney general.

Tenants in affordable housing apartments in some buildings, which benefit from the controversial 421-a tax abatement program, are compelled to use separate entrances to the apartment buildings that segregate the affordable housing tenants from tenants in luxury apartments within the same building.  These separate entrances, derided as "poor doors," have been described as examples of segregation by the cable news network CNN.  

Other tenants in affordable housing apartments in other buildings, which also offer luxury housing, are excluded from enjoying amenities offered by the buildings to the tenants in luxury apartments, such as common spaces like roof-top gardens, according to an article published by The New York Times.

According to a report filed by the journalist Janet Babin and broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition radio program, the segregation caused by the poor doors may have legal implications.

"Civil rights attorneys say a significant number of tenants in the subsidized apartments could be minorities.  Lawyer Randolph McLaughlin says that makes the building's design more than disgraceful — and possibly illegal," Ms. Babin filed in her report.

Amongst the many civil rights issues that the Civil Rights Bureau of the State Attorney General’s Office handles include the civil right to fair housing.

Besides possible civil rights violations, tenant activists have privately expressed concerns to Progress Queens about tenants possibly facing other issues, possibly including disability access or other complaints related to housing.  These concerns gave rise to the FOIL request filed by Progress Queens and which the State Attorney General's Office has now denied.

The relevant documents of the FOIL request are listed below.

Reference Documents