The New York City Council is expected to pass sweeping changes today to a law that has allowed the police department to force people from their homes and businesses without warning over sometimes flimsy allegations, the New York Daily News reports. The council introduced the Nuisance Abatement Fairness Act in response to a Daily News and ProPublica report that the New York Police Department has abused the decades-old law.
The city enacted the nuisance abatement law in the 1970s to push the sex industry out of Times Square. Since then, police have expanded its use, targeting businesses and homes it said were the sites of repeated criminal activity. The police filed 2,609 of the civil lawsuits from 2013 through 2015 alone. The News and ProPublica analyzed more than 1,100 cases filed during that period, and found the targets were frequently households with one or more members accused of low-level drug charges, and immigrant-owned shops accused of selling alcohol to underage auxiliary cops. The targets were almost exclusively located in communities of color. Police lawyers began nearly every case with a request for a court order closing the location without warning, forcing people to negotiate settlements while either homeless or unable to earn a living.