On the List, and Not in a Good Way

(The New York Times) At New York City Housing Court, on the second floor of a dingy office building in Lower Manhattan, a woman sits quietly with a shawl pulled around her shoulders, looking up names on an old government computer and copying them into a sleek mini-laptop at her side. Behind her, tenants shift anxiously on their feet, clutching paperwork and waiting to speak with one of a handful of clerks sitting behind a glass partition.

The woman, who gives her name only as Carolyn out of fear of losing her job, sits at one of the three public-access computers in the room eight hours a day, five days a week. She is searching an online database for the names of tenants with cases before the court. The information she turns up will soon be compiled in a document and sold to landlords, who will use it as a kind of blacklist designed to prevent supposedly litigious or financially irresponsible tenants from renting apartments.

Room 225 at the New York State Courthouse in Lower Manhattan, where employees of tenant-screening companies compile information from publicly available case files for use by landlords. Credit Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times

Impact of the story:

The New York City Council Member Ben Kallos submitted an "Anti Tenant Blacklist" bill in the City Council that would protect the identity of tenants who are involved in housing court cases against their landlords. The press release cites my story in the third paragraph.