Do you have a question about New York's complex and sometimes terrifying housing laws? Native New Yorker columnist Jake Dobkin has been receiving a lot of these questions lately, and he's decided to kick some of them over to his dad, longtime NYC tenants' lawyer and housing activist Steve Dobkin. If you have a question, email us and we will pick the most interesting ones to pass along to him.

Today's question comes from a deliveryman who can't stand it when a fancy building requires him to hand over ID just to bring food up to a customer.

So I deliver somewhat fancy food to somewhat fancy buildings. A lot of these buildings have policies that really dick me around—especially when I have to, with my one paper bag, exit the building, walk around the block to the service entrance, and then come back into the same lobby I was just in. But one thing I'm not sure about is ID stuff.

It annoys me to show ID to enter a building, but I get it. But how about the occasional building that makes you give them your ID to hold onto while you're in the building? Is that even legal?

I told the guy to just copy it down and please give it back; it stresses me out to leave it with people. I know it seems like a small thing, but other poor/lower middle class types will know why this annoys me.


A longtime housing attorney responds:

Since 9/11, purported concerns for the security of residents have been used to justify a host of measures invading the privacy of tenants, family members, guests, and visitors. The likelihood is that a delivery guy would be treated by the average judge with even less deference than a visiting in-law.

In 2005, Peter Cooper Village installed a massive electronic key card and video surveillance system which required tenants, family members and anyone who entered the buildings on a regular basis to use an encrypted key card with their picture on it. The Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association challenged the system in Court and at the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (“DHCR”) on a multitude of grounds, from violating leases and the Rent Stabilization Law to totalitarian enslavement, but in the end the Landlord’s repeated mantra of “Security,” backed by recommendations from a former FBI agent, two independent consultants, and the NYPD Crime Prevention Unit, outweighed all resistance.

Cynics and tenant activists suspected that the real motivation for the installation of the computerized key system was to measure the comings and goings of tenants for use as evidence against them in non-primary residence proceedings, a key feature of the campaign to eliminate long-term lower-rent-paying tenants.

The 2006 opinion by the DHCR Commissioner, which was upheld by the State Supreme Court, noted that since “security personnel may review the photos of card key holders as they enter their buildings, via the integrated CCTV system, it is only logical to allow security personnel to be able to ask for a photo ID of non-key card holders.”

Frankly, it’s hard to envision a realistic scenario in which you, as a delivery guy, will be in a position to challenge building management’s holding onto your ID while you’re in the building. Be thankful you haven’t (yet) been subjected to extraordinary rendition to a black site.

The opinion herein does not constitute legal advice, which may only be given in the context of a lawyer-client relationship.

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