(Produced by Nadeem Shad and Anya Chapman / NY City Lens)
Tenants shouting cries of “The people united will never be defeated” dominated the scene outside City Hall on Thursday as New Yorkers gathered to urge politicians to pass a series of bills aimed at protecting tenants from landlord harassment.
Isabel Lopez says she feels like a mouse in her own home—an animal being hunted and shooed away. She has lived in her Williamsburg apartment for 35 years, but for the last seven months her apartment did not have gas. It was shut off for no reason and without notice.
Lopez is just one of many New York residents who is feeling bullied out of their rent-subsidized homes. On February 23, Lopez joined nearly 100 people from Stand for Tenant Safety on the steps of City Hall to voice her frustrations.
The group—a coalition of organizations that help people find and keep safe and affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods—has been helping to promote city legislation that would protect residents from being bullied out of their homes. Landlords have been buying rent-regulated buildings and their priority is getting rid of long-term residents so they can flip the units for more rent. When tenants won’t accept a buyout, landlords resort to cruel and unusual means of intimidating them to vacate under the guise of construction.
In 2015, city council members introduced 12 bills that aim to reform the Department of Buildings and put an end to tenants being harassed by construction. The bills include actions from stricter enforcement of building permits to compliance with new policies to protect tenants. So far, five of the bills have progressed forward in committees.
The rally was another cry from the public for the buildings’ department to take action. Margaret Chin, a councilwoman supporting one of the bills, said to the crowd, “We must hold our landlords accountable and ensure that the residents can live without fear.”