By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The STPCV Tenants Association announced in an email last Wednesday that management would be restoring the resident directories in lobbies and on building intercoms.
Last November, some residents noticed that tenant names had been removed from building intercoms, making it difficult for visitors to find residents’ apartments without knowing the apartment number. StuyTown Property Services General Manager Rick Hayduk said at the time that management had been receiving an increasing number of requests to have their names removed from video intercoms and the resident lists in building lobbies due to privacy concerns. After a number of complaints from residents, management later announced that there would be an opt-in option for residents that would allow tenants to still have their names listed on the intercoms, but at that point there was no plan to bring back the printed building directories, and the TA continued to push the issue with management, citing possible housing violations.
Hayduk, while noting that the law still seemed antiquated, said that management will be returning tenant names to intercoms and reinstalling the lobby directories.
“Our position is that we take privacy seriously,” Hayduk said. “We had less than 10% of residents opt-in, but the challenge is always awareness.”
A letter from the Tenants Association’s attorney sent to management at the end of January pointed to a section of the Housing Maintenance Code stating that owners are required to offer a directory of people living in the building, and noted that the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) is authorized to order a rent reduction under Rent Stabilization Code if an owner has failed to maintain the required services.
The letter also argued that DHCR has consistently held that removal of tenant names from directories or intercoms could be considered a reduction in services, as seen in a case from 2001 in which the DHCR Commissioner upheld a rent reduction order, determining that an accurate directory is necessary so that visitors can find the occupant of a particular apartment. The Commissioner also affirmed in additional cases through 2008 that a failure to maintain the directories constitutes a decrease in services since inaccurate names or the lack of a directory would prevent a particular tenant from being found.
“We believe it’s important for neighbors to know one another, whether for forging friendships or looking out for one another in emergencies such as Superstorm Sandy,” TA President Susan Steinberg said. “That has always been a strength of our community.”
The email from the TA last week said that management has committed to restoring the lobby directories and the names of residents who don’t opt out by March 11. Hayduk said that residents should be getting an email this week giving them the ability to opt out.