Soon to be a legal view? Bogart and Siegel. — Photo by Jeremy Sapienza

The New York Senate today passed an extension to the 1982 Loft Law, which grants tenants living in commercially or industrially zoned buildings the same legal rights as those in residentially zoned buildings. The legislation, sponsored in Albany by Bushwick Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, now awaits the governor’s signature.

In recent years, many Bushwick conversions, which house perhaps thousands of people, have taken place without sanction from City bodies. The Loft Law extension bill, S.7178A, will now protect tenants in about 3600 more units in around 300 buildings which have seen residential use since the last extension in 1987. Landlords of affected properties will be required to bring units up to code in all areas including the health, safety, and fire standards required of all residential units. Tenants will also be afforded protection from sudden eviction and commercial rent increases, which are unrestricted by law.

Building owners must register their converted loft spaces with the New York City Loft Board within nine months of the law’s passage. Landlords must comply with City fire and safety codes within 18 months and seek a residential certificate of occupancy within 36 months. Owners having trouble with compliance beyond his or her control can be granted two 12-month extensions by the Loft Board.

The Bushwick area’s State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan defends the ability of New Yorkers to convert underused former industrial spaces into more housing in a city with a famously short supply.

“Lofts offer a unique opportunity to convert defunct manufacturing space into livable, revenue generating space,” said the senator in a press release. “Tenants who have moved into these older, vacant buildings, have sparked new life in what were at one time bustling commercial hubs. In doing so, they have rebuilt communities and in some instances built new ones.” In Bushwick, the industrial areas around the Jefferson and especially Morgan L subway stops are examples of this change of usage.

Loft Laws are an attempt by the State to catch up legislatively to facts on the ground — manufacturing areas in New York have for decades been turning into residential neighborhoods despite zoning that prohibits this use. The laws are understood to be a step toward complete legalization of residential use for previously commercial properties.

Local community-based organization Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council — connected to law sponsor Assemblyman Lopez — holds occasional workshops to inform Bushwick loft tenants of their rights. The extension of the Loft Laws will help defuse some of the legal problems these residents may face connected to the zoning status of their lofts.