The opinion of the court was delivered by: MOTLEY
Plaintiff, Mapama Corporation, is the owner of a building in an area of Manhattan known as SOHO. Defendants, Patricia L. Stotter and Robert W. Newmann are residents of two units in Mapama's building. Defendants New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and its Commissioner are responsible for certifying artists pursuant to New York's Multiple Dwelling Law ("MDL") Article 7-B, § 276 and New York City Zoning Resolution §§ 12-10, 42-01.
Mapama has brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and seeks declaratory and unjunctive relief. It claims that by "denying plaintiff notice of the applications by [Stotter and Newmann] for certification as artists, and further denying plaintiff any opportunity to contest or be heard with regard to said applications," the city "affected plaintiff's property rights seriously and adversely" without due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Mapama alleges that certification of Stotter and Newman as artists triggered the application of MDL Article 7-C, §§ 280-287, to its building. Mapama also alleges that Stotter and Newmann both fraudulently obtained their certification.
The New York legislature enacted MDL Article 7-C, the so-called Loft Law, in 1982 on the basis of its findings that a "serious public emergency" existed which was created by the increasing resort of the population of large cities such as New York to the conversion of commercial loft space into residential use. Much of this conversion was being done without compliance with building codes and laws or minimum standards of health, safety, and fire protection. The Legislature also recognized that because of the "acute shortage of housing," forcing tenants in such dwellings to relocate would cause them to "suffer a great hardship" and that the uncertain status of such tenancies had created burdensome legal disputes between landlords and tenants. See MDL Article 7-C, § 280. The Loft Law was designed to legalize certain of those residences, to bring them up to safe residential standards, and to establish a system whereby rents would be regulated and adjusted to help defray the costs of the improvements. Id.
Pursuant to MDL Article 7-C, § 284 (1)(i), owners of buildings covered by MDL Article 7-C are required to make whatever structural alterations in the building are necessary to comply with safety and fire protection standards set forth in MDL Article 7-B and ultimately to obtain residential certificates of occupancy. In addition, pursuant to MDL Article 7-C, § 286, residential units are subject to regulated rent and their tenants are provided certain protections from eviction. These obligations and restraints on the use of its property are the specific ways in which Mapama alleges in its complaint that its property rights are impaired. See Complaint PP22-27.
The defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on the ground that Mapama's allegations fail to state a claim under § 1983.
Determination of the motion essentially requires the interpretation of various laws and regulations and the material facts are not in dispute. The crux of Mapama's claim is that coverage by Article 7-C deprives it of certain property rights and that certification of Stotter and Newmann as artists caused its building to be covered by Article 7-C. Therefore, Mapama claims, since it has a property interest affected by the certification, it has a due process right to notice and an opportunity to be heard during the certification process.
The fact is, however, that certification is irrelevant to coverage of a building by Article 7-C. The owner's obligations and tenant's protections which are contained in Article 7-C and about which Mapama complains are applied to "interim multiple dwellings." An interim multiple dwelling is defined in MDL Article 7-C, § 281, which provides in pertinent part:
§ 281.Definition of "interim multiple dwelling"
1. Except as provided in subdivision two of this section, the term "interim multiple dwelling" means any building or structure or portion thereof located in a city of more than one million persons which (i) at any time was occupied for manufacturing, commercial, or warehouse purposes; and (ii) lacks a certificate of compliance or occupancy pursuant to section three hundred one of this chapter; and (iii) on December first, nineteen hundred eighty-one was occupied for residential purposes since April first, nineteen hundred eighty as the residence or home of any three or more families living independently of one another.
2. Notwithstanding the definition set forth in subdivision one of this section, the term "interim multiple dwelling" includes only (i) buildings, structures or portions thereof located in a geographical area in which the local zoning resolution permits residential use as of right, or by minor modification or administrative certification of a local planning agency, (ii) buildings or structures which are not owned by a municipality, (iii) buildings, structures or portions thereof within an area designated by the local zoning resolution as a study area for possible rezoning to permit residential use, or (iv) buildings, structures or portions thereof which may be coverted to residential use pursuant to a special permit granted by a local planning agency. . . .
Nowhere is certification of an occupant as an artist mentioned as a precondition to coverage by that provision.
Pursuant to MDL Article 7-C, § 282, a Loft Board was established to administer the new Loft Law in New York City. The regulations promulgated by that Loft Board explicitly state:
The non-artist status of the current occupant shall not be the basis for exemption from Article 7-C coverage including the legalization requirements of Section 284(1).
Coverage Regulations § E(3). In express terms, then, the Loft Board's regulations provide that the question whether or not an occupant is a certified artist has no bearing on the coverage as long as the statutory criteria quoted above are ...