Last week, City Council Members introduced a bill package to curb the NYPD’s wide-spread use of Nuisance Abatement action. If passed, the package could restrict the decades-old law that allows police to shut down homes or businesses suspected of illegal activity.
New York City’s Nuisance Abatement Law (NAL), created in 1977 to shut down prostitution in Times Square, are civil lawsuits issued by the NYPD and the Kings County Supreme Court. The lawsuits allow cops to shut down homes and businesses with reported connections to violence, drug trafficking, and illegal gambling.
But recent reports found that the NYPD has been abusing nuisance abatement to unfairly shutter small, immigrant-owned shops in primarily black and Hispanic neighborhoods over low-level drug charges, according to a report by ProPublica and the NY Daily News.
City officials are now pushing for reforms on NAL’s widespread application, with 13-bill Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act introduced by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The bill package is meant to restrict NAL’s application to confirmed cases of illegal activity. Under NAL, NYPD allegations alone could shutter a shop without a hearing or judge order, but the Fairness Act includes legislation to eliminate those ex parte orders.
“This package of legislation will reform these laws to eliminate the most draconian penalties… to ensure that innocent people do not lose their homes or businesses, all while still permitting the swift shuttering of illegal houses of prostitution, bodegas that sell K2, and other actual nuisances where appropriate,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The bill adds restrictions to narrow drug cases to sales alone, require NAL cases to have at least one police witness, establish a 4-month statute of limitations for all NAL cases, prohibit permanent exclusions, ensure data collection and reporting, and more. The City Council for Public Safety Committee will hear the Fairness Act package tomorrow, November 2.
Last week, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (District 45) also introduced legislation to limit NAL abuses against small shops selling alcohol to minors.
Williams’ bill would require four NAL violations before a court-ordered shutdown, and restrict these violations to repeated, willful, and flagrant cases. If passed, the bill would become effective 60 days after it becomes a law.
“The application of the Nuisance Abatement Law has been abused and doesn’t allow for fair due process because of the uneven enforcement of the law,” said Council Member Williams. “It is time the City Council reforms this law to crackdown on the abuses that result from its unintended use and protect New Yorkers from unnecessarily losing their homes and businesses.”