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Klein introduces new amendment to Bawdy House Bill

Bronx Times

Landlords could get a helping hand from the long arm of the law evicting drug dealers and prostitutes, thanks to new legislation by Senator Jeff Klein.

The Bawdy House bill, already cleared in the Senate, would allow assistant district attorneys to evict drug-dealing tenants instead of landlords who are often too intimidated to come face-to-face with a tenant.

“We want to remove them from the safe house to the big house,” said Klein, joined by Bronx D.A. Rob Johnson at a press conference on the steps of Bronx Supreme Court.

Current law makes it tough on the landlord to proceed with an eviction since it keeps housing court cases at the bottom of the docket and in litigation limbo for months, according to Klein. “The law today leaves residents and law enforcement officials powerless.”

Johnson agreed, saying “It really destroys the enjoyment and quality of life for neighbors.”

He called the bill a “simple solution.”

Klein recently took on the issue after a drug bust at Spencer Estate. The suspected tenant was free to stay in their apartment for months while the case crawled through Housing Court.

Klein said other such cases exist in Pelham Bay, Grand Concourse, Co-op City and Van Nest where tenants are using homes for criminal enterprises.

Bronx cops recently netted 268 bags of crack, 218 pounds of heroin and eight guns in 13 apartments.

“One apartment, one house, is enough to destroy the safety of an entire neighborhood,” said Klein.

But Jonathan Levy, deputy director of the Housing Unit with Legal Services NYC Bronx, calls the proposed bill problematic for tenants.

“From a tenant’s point of view, if you’re sitting in a gallery and you see the assistant district attorney next to the landlord, it creates the impression that Robert Johnson is on your landlord’s side,” said Levy. “What kind of a fair shake can you get when the case is being run by the DA’s office?”

Levy said most housing cases are settled. But with the ADA’s getting involved, they may not want to make that happen.

The city marshal’s office reported a total of 10,140 Bronx evictions during 2011, the most out of all five boroughts.

Reach reporter David Cruz at (718) 742-3383 or email dcruz@cnglocal.com.

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