NY tenants sit-in for housing rights

SLL photo: Anne Pruden

On May 14, several dozen tenants held a sit-in at the office of New York State Assembly member Tremaine Wright in Albany, N.Y.  As part of the statewide coalition called Housing Justice for All, they demanded universal rent control for all residents of the city and state of New York.

The protesters also presented Wright with a 30-day eviction notice, as it was then 30 days before New York City’s rent-stabilization law is set to expire. Wright is a Democrat from Brooklyn who represents part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a traditionally African-American, working-class neighborhood that is now being heavily gentrified. Wright has opposed strengthening the rent control law, which many tens of thousands of her constituents depend on to stay in their homes.

For months, tenant groups have sent representatives to Albany to meet with politicians about the urgent need to defend tenants’ rights, following up on mass meetings in Harlem and other areas. So far, Wright has refused to meet with tenants’ groups.

Those occupying the office chanted, “Which side are you on?” echoing the labor and civil-rights song.

Other militant actions were held in the state Capitol building by the thousands who came from all over New York State, including labor and immigrant rights organizations, and groups representing the homeless and public housing residents.

A dozen of the state’s union leaders sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators supporting sweeping reforms to New York’s rent regulations, changes that would close the loopholes that landlords and developers have used for decades to drive up rents and evict tenants.

As some tenants applied pressure with people’s eviction notices for pro-landlord politicians, hundreds of others took over the building’s huge, four-floor-high staircase after Capitol police locked them out of the Senate chambers. Tenants then flooded the third floor, chanting in several languages, “The rent is too damn high!”