1,000+ Tenants March Over Brooklyn Bridge To Protest Rent Hikes

Published on May 20, 2023, 5:30 pm
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More than a thousand tenants, elected officials, union members, and housing advocates marched over the Brooklyn Bridge in the largest tenant mobilization New York has seen in years to demand state and local leaders address New York’s spiraling affordability crisis, as rents break new records and homelessness soars.

Tenants called on Albany to pass Good Cause eviction, legislation that would protect unregulated tenants from exorbitant rent hikes and unjust evictions, as well as a Housing Access Voucher Program to provide the most vulnerable New Yorkers with rental assistance vouchers.

While the state legislature included support for Good Cause and HAVP in their budget resolutions, Albany leaders have walked back their commitments after negotiations on the budget fell apart. This week, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said that Good Cause in its current form was off the table this year. Gov. Hochul has also said a housing package could wait until next year. 

Tenants at the march underlined that action could not wait another year. Rent costs are shooting through the roof and evictions are climbing after the state’s eviction moratorium was lifted last January. The affordability crisis is pushing more and more New Yorkers out of the state, especially Black working families.

Meanwhile, popular support for Good Cause continues to surge. Last week, more than 30 state elected officials held a press conference in support of Good Cause, urging the state legislature to pass the bill this year. Two in three likely voters in New York back Good Cause, and the policy has received support from 16 labor unions, more than 100 faith leaders, and more than 50 NY city and county elected officials.

Tenants also called for a rent rollback from the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, which is on track to approve record rent hikes for the second year in a row. Earlier this month, the RGB passed a preliminary vote that would raise rents for rent-regulated tenants by as much as 7% for two-year leases, and 5% for one-year leases, a year after approving the highest increase for rent-stabilized apartments in almost a decade.

“When Governor Hochul was running for office, it was the progressives that rallied to get her in office, based on the promise that she would deliver on housing,” said VOCAL-NY Leader Milton Perez. “Then she prioritized things that would not happen for years, and nothing got done. Now is the time to rally around the policies that will help people in the immediate- like HAVP and good cause.”

“If Albany lets this legislative session pass without protecting tenants, millions more New Yorkers will be pushed out of the homes and communities they love. Failing to act is not an option. We need to keep families in their homes by passing Good Cause eviction protections, the Housing Access Voucher Program, and putting a stop to the cruel hikes on rent-stabilized tenants,” said Cori Marquis, Deputy Campaigns Director at the New York Working Families Party.

“As a tenant organizer in Manhattan, I have to time and again tell my tenants who are being served notices of nonrenewal by their new private equity landlords that without Good Cause passing, they will be evicted. This cutthroat status quo needs to end and Governor Hochul and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins telling us to wait another year will result in more people living on the street,” said Illapa Sairitupac, Tenant Organizer at Cooper Square Committee.

“Housing is the foundation to our lives. Where we live affects where we work, buy food, and go to school. We need safe, affordable housing to carry out our daily lives and be at peace. It is fundamental to our physical and mental wellbeing. Eighty percent of my monthly income is just paying rent, and the rising cost of food is making things very difficult. Due to my long work schedule, I am often unable to make it to the food pantries. I have learned to make pasta go a long way,” said Antoinette Rose, 1199SEIU delegate and Medical Records Analyst.

“Bronx tenants are being pushed out of their homes and onto the streets at record levels. We are facing the second highest eviction rates in the state, and housing courts are hearing eviction cases without the legal counsel for tenants that is required by law. We are demanding the most basic protections for our survival–Good Cause Eviction, a Housing Access Voucher Program, and a rent rollback. The working families that built this city need long term solutions that support us to collectively own and govern our buildings and land to stabilize our communities for the long haul,” said Sandra Lobo, Executive Director of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

“We are seeing a tremendous burden on tenants all across the City to pay these ascending rent increases. Having to choose between activities with family OR paying the bills is a choice too many in today’s age are dealing with. There is a solution to these issues and not one that helps in an obtuse way. This will increase the likelihood that rent-stabilized tenants will stay in the neighborhoods that they want to live in and not be forced to move out. Having a rent rollback would be not only ideal but necessary. When people have more money in their pockets, we would begin to see thriving small businesses and businesses of color as a result. The solution is there, we just need to work together to achieve it. Housing is a human right,” said Darius Gordon, Executive Director of the Met Council on Housing.

“This is a racial justice issue. Black women are more than two times as likely to be evicted as white tenants in New York State,” said Community Voices Heard Executive Director Juanita O. Lewis. “No New Yorker should have to decide between food, childcare, and rent. No New Yorker should have to worry about their rent skyrocketing each year. No New Yorker should face eviction without good cause. Every day, more people in communities across the state are being evicted and the housing crisis deepens. The Legislature cannot stay on the sidelines any longer. Inaction is a failure of leadership. The Senate and Assembly must pass Good Cause eviction protections and a Housing Access Voucher Program before the session ends.”

“The rise in the cost of living and the lack of accountability for predatory landlords has made it impossible for us to continue living and working in our communities. We have come too far and worked too hard to be exiled out of our own homes. We, the immigrants, the workers and the tenants of New York, will not stand for this systemic, discriminatory and predatory displacement. Enough is enough,” said Brayan Pagoada, Director of Organizing at Churches United for Fair Housing

“Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refuse to address the housing crisis in New York. South Asian and Indo Caribbean immigrant communities who organize with DRUM are facing high eviction rates and being forced out of our homes and neighborhoods. Our people feel backed against a wall with nowhere to go. This is about our survival. The government needs to take decisive action and respond to our demands,” said Rowshon Sarkar, Housing Justice Organizer at Desis Rising Up and Moving.

“The landlords are draining the life out of tenants! We cannot afford the rent hikes proposed by Eric Adams’ RGB, and I am marching because we need less rent hikes and more rent strikes. If the mayor can’t make that happen, let’s come together and get another one that hears our plea for a rent rollback,” said Nathan Mitchell, CASA member.

“Chhaya CDC works with many south Asian and indo-Caribbean tenants living in private homes and basement apartments. Those tenants are faced with the harsh reality that the state does not protect them. We need good cause eviction to stabilize our communities,” said Rima Begum, Associate Director of Housing Stability at Chhaya CDC.

“Tenants are sick and tired of broken promises from our government. Doing nothing this year is not an option. Failing to pass any tenant protections this year would cause needless suffering for million in New York. Rent is too damn high tenants in New York City are faced with choosing if they should pay rent or keep food on the table for their kids. Too many people are working 2 or 3 jobs and just give their whole check to the landlord and are left without money to put food on the table. Our leadership in Albany failed to take action to protect us. Calling on our governor we need you now more than anything. It is time to step up and make some changes,” said Cynthia Norris, an organizer at New York Communities for Change.

As tenant organizers in Williamsburg, Los Sures has fought hard and won for decades to keep rent stabilized tenants in their homes, but in the past years we have seen more and more unregulated tenants come in from across north Brooklyn facing no-cause evictions and we have been powerless to fight for them under New York’s unjust laws. We need Albany to pass good cause NOW, so all tenants in New York have a fighting chance to stay in their homes,” said Lina Rénique-Poole, Director of Housing Resources at Southside United HDFC – Los Sures.

The action was supported by Housing Justice for All, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, CASA, Chhaya, Catholic Migration Services, Cooper Square Committee, Churches United for Fair Housing, Community Voices Heard, District Council C37, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Fifth Avenue Committee, Housing Conservation Coordinators, Los Sures, Legal Services Staff Association, Met Council on Housing, Make the Road NY, Neighbors Together, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, NYC-DSA, the New York Doctors Coalition, New York Communities for Change, Rochester Tenants Union, SEIU 1199, St. Nicks Alliance, Syracuse Tenants Union, Tenants & Neighbors, VOCAL-NY, Working Families Party, and Woodside on the Move.

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