"Apartment War" Heats Up
Tue, 04 Sep 2007 22:28:00
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In East Harlem, the Movement for Justice in El Barrio staged a rally to pressure landlords who withhold services and neglect repairs and otherwise try to make the lives of tenants miserable, hoping they will move out and thereby create a market rate vacancy.
In Washington Heights, State Assemblyman, Adriano Espaillat’s office joined with Columbia University and City University to offer legal assistance to tenants who are unfairly dragged through ‘trumped up’ eviction proceedings in an attempt to create a vacant apartment that could be marked to market rent. Espaillat’s new partnership is aimed at helping tenants stay put and to prevent the tide of gentrification.
In El Barrio, marchers carried signs reading -
“We Will Not Be Moved” and “HPD Where Are You.” Organizers led a procession chanting and marching from building to building owned by what they called the worst landlords in the city.
Juan Hero, a leader of the Movement organization said, “We are a community organization fighting for dignified housing and against the displacement of our community.”
“Today we march to save our homes and our Barrio. The greedy landlords in East Harlem want to force us out of our homes and kick us our of our neighborhood.”The landlords they targeted include Dawnay Day Group, a multi-national corporation based in London. Which recently bought 47 buildings in East Harlem and announced their plans to increase rents.
Also on the list is Nasir Sasouness, who they claim, is a long-time slumlord of the community.
The groups says he has a history of abuse and intimidation and is now stepping up his campaign to evict low-income tenants to increase rents by creating new vacancies to be re-offered at market rates.
Last on the list was Dean Realty, which the group claims has begun a campaign of offering money to tenants to induce them to vacate their apartments, while at the same neglecting repairs and reducing services. Up in Washington Heights, residents have been complaining about rising rents and gentrification. So numerous were the complaints about eviction harassment that Espaillat felt action was needed to protect the community.
He said “threats of evictions remaining constant over the last two years [over 19,000 reported eviction proceeding filings in 2006 and 2005] only served to validate the work of ‘Nos Quedamos/Project Remain’ and its continued effort for preserving affordable housing in my district.”
With the threat of eviction proceedings, most of those affected are forced to appear in court without any representation or information regarding their rights, their defenses, or knowing how to protect their legal claims.
This unique partnership is designed to level playing field for the tenants.
Tenants join with with organizers from the Movement for Justice in El Barrio last week for a rally calling attention to the harassment lanlords can bring upon tenanats in the neighborhood. (Photos by Ismael Nunez)
The legal services planned are in coordination with the City University of New York (CUNY), the City University of New York School of Law, and the Community Legal Resource Network (CLRN) and Columbia University, who for the past several months have been speaking with Assemblyman Espaillat about how to best protect the interest of the Washington Heights community.
According to CUNY Vice Chancellor Jay Hershenson, "This unique partnership between Assemblyman Espaillat and The CUNY School of Law is a valuable opportunity to help New Yorkers cope with the critical challenges.”
Maxine Griffith, Executive Vice President Government and Community Relations at Columbia University said “We are committed to providing technical and legal assistance to organizations that work to alert tenants of their housing rights and we will call on the resources of Columbia Law School Community Development Clinic to assist organizations with structuring programs that assist tenants. Through our Not for Profit Institute, Columbia will also provide infrastructure and staff support.”
The free service will be housed in Espaillat office, 210 Sherman Avenue, from 10-4, Monday through Friday. If you want an appointment to speak with an attorney, call (212) 544-2278.