Harlem Tenants Protest ID-Cardkey Scheme

Tenants at a former Mitchell-Lama building in Harlem are incensed that their new landlord wants to require them to use a photo ID card instead of a key to get into their building.

“It would be like a prison,” Alicia Barksdale, president of the
3333 Broadway Tenants Association, told the Daily News in March. “They aren’t locking people out; it’s like they’re locking us in.” 

Urban American Management, the landlord that took over the five-building complex after its former owner opted out of the Mitchell-Lama program in 2005, says the ID-card system is a security measure. It plans to give tenants listed on a lease a card that they would swipe to get into the building. They would only be able to use it to get into their own building.

Residents staged a 12-hour protest on March 20. They say that more than 1,500 of the complex’s 5,000 residents have signed petitions opposing the plan.

 Tenants also say the system would invade their privacy, as there could be electronic records of exactly when they went in and out. People who don’t have the ID cards—guests and residents who wanted to go to another building in the complex—would have to call the person they’re visiting on an intercom. However, none of the intercoms in the five buildings work, residents told the DNAinfo news service.

Urban American has installed a similar system in the former Schomburg Plaza building in Harlem, which it also owns. A company  spokesperson said tenants were pleased with it. But Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer told DNAinfo that residents have called the system “chronically dysfunctional,” as the cardkeys often don’t work.

Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village implemented a similar cardkey system in 2004. Tenants objected that it would violate their privacy and that they would be unable to do things like give someone their keys to water their plants or feed their cat while they’re away, but a court dismissed their challenge. The landlord agreed that tenants could get up to four extra cardkeys for residents and guests for free—but last year, the complex’s new owner imposed an $8 fee for cardkeys. The tenants association is contesting that.