“What do we want? Strong rent laws. When do we want them? Now,” was the rallying cry of a group of tenant advocates outside Senator Jeff Klein’s office last week.
Chants of “Tenants, united, will never be defeated,” and “Fight, fight, fight, housing is a right,” were also heard from the representatives from groups including Alliance for Tenant Power, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, CASA- New Settlement, Banana Kelly Resident Council, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, New York Communities for Change and Tenants and Neighbors.
The advocates visited Senator’s Klein office in the Hutch Metro Center on Friday, May 29 to call on him to vocally support renewing and strengthening the rent regulation laws that are due to expire on June 15.
Some of the demonstrators were tenants of rent-regulated building who expressed fear at what will happen to them if the laws are weakened or expire.
A member of CASA, Beverly Creighton, said she pays 80 percent of her income towards rent, and can’t afford an increase should the rent laws change.
Northwest Bronx Coalition representative Joseph Ferdinand said he feared being at the mercy of his landlord should his unit fall out of regulation.
“Where am I going to go?” said Hunts Point resident Joanna Paulino. “It’s not only me, it’s a lot of children and families that are going to be displaced.”
The tenants in her building are hardworking people, she said, but are still struggling day to day.
“We vote and we expect him to have our backs on this,” said Paulino, who lives in Klein’s district.
The advocates were frustrated that when they arrived at the Hutch Metro Center they were unable to speak with a representative from the senator’s office and read a letter calling for his action on the issue.
Instead they left it with the building’s security before starting their rally.
The letter addressed to Klein calls on him to act on behalf of people living in 45,000 rent-stabilized apartments in his district.
“Your silence on the state of the rent laws, despite the urgency for increased housing protections in your district, is deeply troubling,” the letter reads. “Thus far your only public position has been to defend the wasteful 421a tax break program for wealthy developers that has done little to create affordable housing.”
“Rent regulation is by far the largest source of the much-needed affordable housing and it must be protected,” the letter reads.
In response to the letter, the senator’s office said the advocates’ complaints are unfounded.
“These attacks are not only petty, they’re plain wrong,” said a spokeswoman for the senator.
“In the final weeks of session Senator Klein will continue to fight to strengthen rent control and rent stabilization laws affecting thousands of tenants in the Bronx, ” the rep said.