With roughly 500,000 New Yorkers still without internet access, momentum is gaining for action
A law requiring free internet for every apartment in New York City? If some city officials have their way, it will be a reality sooner rather than later. Council member Ben Kallos proposed a new bill on Thursday that would require landlords who own buildings with ten or more units to provide tenants with internet or “its functional equivalent,” as the proposal stated. “Such dwellings would be subject to additional technical requirements,” the bill reads, “including the installation of Ethernet ports and wiring to facilitate internet access. Violations would be punished under the Housing Maintenance Code.”
The news site Patch reported that Kallos wanted the bill passed to help underprivileged New Yorkers—there are around 500,000 of them who don’t have internet access. Living without it means that applying for food benefits, working remotely, and even reserving COVID-19 vaccine appointments is a challenge, to say the least.
Internet, Kallos believes, needs to be a utility in the same way that electricity, heat, hot water, and phone service are. Landlords who can’t afford to provide it can apply for aid, although he says that they’re looking at an investment that starts as low as $14.95 a month to buy internet in bulk.
The digital gap among New Yorkers and the need for internet became glaring during the pandemic. With remote work and schooling as a way of life and Zoom as a mainstay, New Yorkers who had to live without it faced roadblock after roadblock: Students couldn’t keep up with school, and employees couldn’t do their jobs. Kallos’s proposal is the first of its kind, according to Shaun Pappas, a real estate lawyer at Starr Associates in New York.
However, this isn’t the first time that the city has tried to help New Yorkers get access to internet. In January 2020—just a few months before the pandemic Mayor Bill de Blasio and chief technology officer John Paul Farmer announced the Internet Master Plan, which aims to provide all New Yorkers with easy, affordable, and fast internet service. In May, the administration announced that the plan had achieved a milestone by bringing internet connection to 13 low-income developments, three of which will receive free WiFi on public grounds.
Shaun Pappas believes that this new proposal is likely to get passed. “The city thinks that internet is an essential service for everyone, and it’s in their interest to serve underprivileged residents and give them whatever they need to live their basic lives,” he said. “Internet is definitely part of that.” Pappas thinks that the free internet landlords offer will be tiered. “They’ll probably provide a basic plan, but you’ll have to pay to upgrade to a higher speed,” he says.
If the bill doesn’t get passed, Tara King-Brown, a real estate broker with the Corcoran Group, says that the landlords who do offer it for free will have a competitive edge. “They will attract more buyers and renters and can build its cost into the monthly rental or maintenance fees,” she says. “Internet today goes beyond being an amenity. It’s the great equalizer that every New Yorker needs and deserves.”
Our team has had the pleasure of working with Starr Associates on our project at 150 Rivington Street. The entire Starr team was a tremendous asset to the success of our project. Through very challenging times, Starr Associates came through time and time again. It is an honor to work with everyone at Starr!
I have known Allan Starr for many years and worked with him on many projects. He has always exceeded my expectations. He not only knows the ins and outs of the law, but knows how to make the whole process easy and quick. I’ve found him to possess an incredibly astute legal mind, combined with a common sense approach that always accomplishes my goals. He’s not only a gentleman and a friend, but a brilliant lawyer.
It has been an absolute pleasure working with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber over the past twelve years. They are not only the utmost professionals, but also wonderful people who I have grown to love like family. I trust them with all of my new development projects and private clients, and we support each other in our business and personal lives. Starr Associates LLP has always been there for me and my clients and I would recommend them as highly as I recommend anyone.
Allan and I have worked together for decades; along the way, I have worked with Samantha Sheeber, Andrea Roschelle, John Rodriguez and Erica Starr and have always been pleased with their quick and accurate responses. They have worked with us on closings (with great and efficient results), restatements of stale plans, amendments and other assorted AG requirements, always on a timely and cost-effective basis.
“Working with Starr has been great on three condo projects in Manhattan to date. The accessibility and direct attention of the partners is unsurpassed. Allan and Sam have the interests of the owner at heart and make every effort to protect our interests in a responsible and defensible manner. Their practical approach and deep knowledge of the offering plan process and requirements of the AG office combine to make a highly effective and efficient package. At the associate level they have good support as well. The closing office has to be the best in NY – never a failed closing in 15 years. We are repeat customers and will be going forward.”
“Samantha Sheeber is a partner in making transactions successful. She’s resourceful, respected, smart, funny as hell, and is swift to constantly embarrass us (and clients) because she sees the end while we all muddle in the middle. She saves time. She is selfless and fast and conscientious. She’s loyal to the notion of selflessly getting stuff done. She cultivates great talent. And she makes the process fun, even when she is mad at us for asking the same impossible question 11 times hoping for a new result (a solution for which — by the way — she often discovers).”
“As an active developer in New York City, Magnum Real Estate Group is proud to have partnered with Starr Associates, LLP as our legal counsel in 5 significant projects valued at approximately $800 million. Over the last 5 years, Starr has provided us with exceptional advice on condominium Offering Plans and related transactions. Partner Samantha Sheeber, Esq. and her team have professionally guided us, and provided creative and effective solutions when needed.”
“I have had the fortunate opportunity, over the past 16 years, to work with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber who I consider to be experts in the field of real estate law. They, together with their team, have a deep understanding of Attorney General Offering Plan registrations and continually seek to identify creative solutions to complicated issues. Their level of integrity and commitment are unwavering no matter how large or small a project. I completely endorse Starr Associates LLP and look forward to our mutual continued success.”
“Starr Associates’ specialty in the creation and representation of condominiums is unmatched. Their knowledge, experience and professionalism in the office condominium sector is best-in-class. Starr Associates’ hard work and expertise has been critical to the success of our firm’s office condominium projects.”
“Starr Associates have been our condominium attorneys for many years. Their counsel goes well beyond just drafting the condominium documents, which of course they do extremely well. They also represent us and our brand with condominium unit purchasers, and with our lenders and partners on condominium related matters. We have always found Starr’s attorneys to be professional, responsive and cost-conscious.”