There are many rights and protections that tenants have regardless of what is written in a lease. These rights ensure that landlords must keep the utilities on and the building in good repair and also protects tenants from harassment from the landlord. Another protection is that if the tenants live in a rent stabilized building that rent cannot be raised more than what is allowed by law. However, if a tenant moves out, the landlord does have more freedom to raise rent.
Tenants are not usually very willing to leave a rent stabilized building though and landlords seeking to make more money may use illegal tactics to force the tenants to leave. This is what one landlord is accused of doing. Tenants in the building say that they initially were given notice that their leases were not going to be renewed, but since it was a rent stabilized building that they kept paying their rent since they had a right to stay.
Eventually the tenants say that the landlord began returning their rent checks and started other forms of harassment. They called and emailed multiple times asking if they were going to move out. They had construction projects going on at all times of the day and night. In one case, the landlord even changed the lock to an apartment so the tenant could not enter it. Not surprisingly, the two sides are in a landlord-tenant dispute and an investigation has begun.
There is a reason that New York has rent stabilized buildings and has an interest in protecting the people from having to pay rent they cannot afford. This does not mean that landlords, like the one above, will not try and harass tenants and get them to leave in order to make more money. It is illegal though and the tenants could be entitled to compensation from the landlord. Experienced attorneys understand tenant rights and may be a useful resource.
Source: WPIX-TV 11, "Bed-Stuy tenants say landlord trying to bully them out of building," by Henry Rosoff, Jan. 12, 2018