State Budget Authorizes Major Expansion of Basement and Cellar Apartment Legalization


After years of tireless advocacy from our partners in the Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone (BASE) coalition, New York’s FY25 budget included legislation in support of basement and cellar apartment safety in New York City. The Basement and Cellar Pilot Program will enable the safe conversion of basement and cellar apartments in 15 NYC Community Districts with reforms to the State’s Multiple Dwelling Law. This is a critical step in the creation of a City program to safely legalize its basement and cellar apartments, which will bring stronger flood, fire, and tenant protections to tens of thousands of New Yorkers living at the forefront of our housing and climate crises. 

While the State’s pilot marks major progress for basement and cellar apartment safety, it excludes most of the city, as detailed in BASE’s statement on the budget. The original legislation BASE supported would have granted the city local authority to create a basement safety program citywide, but the final version leaves out many low-income neighborhoods of color where Pratt Center’s research indicates these unregulated apartments are concentrated. State legislators whose districts were excluded are already proposing to expand the pilot program’s geography. 

As a founding member of the BASE Coalition, Pratt Center has been fighting for 15 years to make basement and cellar apartments safe through regulation. As we recognize this significant moment of progress, we are energized to continue working alongside our partners at Chhaya CDC, Cypress Hills LDC, Citizens Housing and Planning Council, Queens Legal Services, and Center for NYC Neighborhoods to improve the housing safety and stability of basement and cellar residents citywide. 


Learn about the State’s New Basement and Cellar Pilot Program:

  • Advocates, Lawmakers “Baffled” By Exclusions in Basement Legalization Plan  City Limits
  • Neighborhoods That Most Need Basement Apartment Legalization Left Out of State Pilot  The City
  • NY’s basement legalization plan “inexplicably” misses parts of city that need it most  Gothamist
  • Heads in the dirt: Albany bungles basement apartment pilot  NY Daily News


A large group assembles around a podium at the New York Capitol. Many are holding red and white signs that read, "Make basement apartments safe" and "Legalize Basement apartments." Other signs read "CUFFH." A large banner being held by several people reads "Remembering Lives Lost to Hurricane Ida"

Rallying in Albany for Basement Apartment Safety
On March 6, BASE joined elected officials and organizations that champion basement and cellar apartment safety in the State Capitol. Pratt Center created educational materialsthat BASE advocates used to educate legislators about the issue and proposed legislation.

Screenshot of Sylvia Morse delivering testimony to legislature

Delivering Testimony in Albany
On February 14, Pratt Center's Sylvia Morse, Policy Program Manager for Research and Policy, delivered testimony on regulatory reforms for basement safety to the State Legislature.

A collage of news article clippings with the following headlines: Bloomberg: "NYC Flooding Renews Calls for Safer Basement Apartments," Gothamist: "2 Years after Hurricane Ida deaths, are NYC's basement apartments any safer?", "City Limits: 'Predictable Emergencies': NYC Flash Floods Spur Renewed Calls for Basement Legalization," "City & State: So...what ever happened to setting up safer basement apartments in New York?"

Responding to floods and educating the public on basement legalization
Following heavy rainfall and flooding in September, Pratt Center and our BASE coalition partners renewed our calls for New York City and State to invest in citywide flood mitigation and resiliency infrastructure and to legalize basement apartments in order to better prepare for these “predictable emergencies.

For a more detailed timeline of Pratt Center’s 15 years of technical assistance and advocacy work with the BASE campaign, see our BASE project page.


08 May, 2024