Landlord wants facial recognition for entry at rent-stabilized Brownsville apartments

Part of the Atlantic Plaza Towers complex (via Google Maps)

Residents of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Plaza Towers in Brownsville began receiving notices last fall that their landlord, Nelson Management Company, is seeking to install a facial recognition system that collects biometric data for residents to gain entrance to the apartment building, Gothamist reports.

The landlord has a fairly precarious description on its website considering that, as Gothamist points out, Brooklyn Legal Services has handled almost 100 eviction cases against Nelson Management: “The firm is particularly adept in the ownership/management of Rent Stabilized, Section 8 and Mitchell Lama properties,” Nelson Managements’ website states.

After tenants of the rent stabilized buildings at 249 Thomas S Boyland St. and 216 Rockaway Ave. attended a recent info session with the landlord their fears of being tracked and potentially evicted were not eased:

“We don’t want to be tracked,” said Icemae Downes, a longtime tenant. “We are not animals. This is like tagging us through our faces because they can’t implant us with a chip.”

It is not clear how many New York City apartments are using facial scanning software or how such technology is being regulated. But in a sign of the times, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development last June began marketing 107 affordable units at a new apartment complex in the South Bronx. Among the amenities listed was “State of the Art Facial Recognition Building Access.”

Asked about the use of facial recognition technology in affordable housing, a spokesperson for HPD said, “While we can’t say we’ve seen an uptick in amenities of this sort, we welcome development plans that allow for the marriage of high tech features and affordability.”

Mona Patel, one of the attorneys at Brooklyn Legal Services’ Tenants Rights Coalition which is representing the tenants, said she had never heard of such a system being used in rent-regulated housing. The apartment buildings, which were built in the late 1960s under the state’s Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program, are home to mostly black residents, with senior women making up a large share.

Facial recognition technology is increasingly common for keyless entry to NYC buildings, which led a UWS Democrat to introduce legislation last week to limit landlords ability to exclusively use keyless entry and to limit the biometric data they collect.

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