MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — Housing advocates accomplished their mission Monday when 13 of them were arrested at a rally demanding the State Senate pass rent reform bills before adjourning for the year.
Tenant leaders are pushing for the passage of a series of pro-tenant bills, including a full repeal of vacancy decontrol, which allows landlords to raise rents on rent-controlled apartments once they become vacant. Another bill would renew rent stabilization laws that are set to expire next year.
The rally of approximately 150 people culminated with a sit-in at 250 Broadway — where both the State Senate and Assembly leadership have offices — during which protesters were arrested for linking arms and blocking the entrance to the building.
Marcela Mitaynes, left, a resident of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, sits in front of 250 Broadway to protest state Senate inaction on rent reform. She was later arrested. (Elizabeth Ladzinski/DNAinfo)
“This was planned as a symbolic action to raise the stakes and get the Senate’s attention,” said Lucas Shapiro, a community organizer from Housing Conservation Coordinators, a not-for-profit based in Hell’s Kitchen.
“This issue is serious enough that people are willing to get arrested,” Shapiro added.
The Senate was close to passing the bills during the last week of June, but on July 1st they adjourned without voting on a single piece of tenant legislation, rally organizers said. Advocates are worried politicians have abandoned their cause.
One of the protesters, Leroy Johnson, lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a 7-building Section 8 complex in Flatbush. In 11 years, his rent has risen from around $600 per month to $1140.
His landlord has begun to illegally charge market-value rent to some new tenants, and has terminated tenancies in retaliation against those who complain about lack of response to maintenance and other requests, Johnson said.
Shapiro said the bills have not yet passed the State Senate because the landlord lobby is the most powerful in New York.
But we can match their economic power with people power,” the organizer said confidently.