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Marches, Melees, and Arrests During May Day Activities Across Town

Photos of the march across the Williamsburg Bridge, Sara D. Roosevelt Park, and the Wildcat March by Jared Malsin.

As documented on The Local’s liveblog, demonstrations and arrests took place across the city today as anarchists, union members, Occupy Wall Street supporters, employees of The Strand, residents of public housing in Alphabet City, and even banjo players used May Day as an occasion to protest the status quo.

The proceedings were for the most part orderly, but scuffles broke out when approximately 200 demonstrators, many dressed in black and some covering their faces, assembled in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, at Second Avenue and Houston Street, at 1 p.m. for a pre-planned, unpermitted “Wildcat March.” Read more…

Know Your (Tenant) Rights

The housing advocates at Good Old Lower East Side will host a workshop next Wednesday on how to use the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal to one’s advantage in the fight against neglectful landlords. The talk will cover how to best to combat “harassment, rent overcharges, reduction of services” and other common tenant woes. A lawyer will be on hand to answer questions beginning at 7 p.m. at the Perseverance House at 535 East Fifth Street.

How To Rally Your Neighbors

The housing advocates at Good Old Lower East Side want to teach you how to fight back against neglectful landlords. Tonight at the Perseverance House at 525 East Fifth Street between Avenues A and B, community organizers will give pointers on forming and managing strong tenants organizations. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Disabled Man Waits Six Years for Proper Housing From NYCHA

untitled.jpgStephen Rex Brown Robert Campbell.

A handicapped resident of the Lillian Wald Houses says his apartment is in such a sorry state that it is literally killing him.

Robert Campbell is a burn victim who sleeps on a couch because his roughly 9-by-11-foot apartment doesn’t have room for an electric bed that would allow him to sleep on an incline, as ordered by doctors. He says odors from a dumpster beneath his 12th-floor studio hurt his lungs, which were severely damaged by an electrical fire in 1988. The blaze burned over 80 percent of his body and resulted in numerous surgeries and the amputation of fingers on his left hand. His doctors have implored the New York City Housing Authority to put him in a three-room apartment since 2003, because even the pilot light in Mr. Campbell’s oven hurts his skin.

“I just want to get in a proper apartment and have this nightmare be over with,” said Mr. Campbell, 58. “I’ve never lived like this before.” Read more…

A Look at Rent Law Changes

In 11 days, changes in the laws that regulate how much your landlord can charge in rent per month will begin to take effect.

However, the changes are not exactly what local tenant advocacy groups wanted. Many groups, including the Cooper Square Committee, Real Rent Reform, Tenants and Neighbors and the Good Old Lower East Side were hoping state legislators would eliminate the rent laws’ vacancy decontrol, which allows a landlord who renovates a unit to charge more in rent per month to a new tenant after the previous vacates the unit. Instead, vacancy decontrol remains in the law.

The renewed laws, which were passed in conjunction with but overshadowed by the passage of same-sex marriage in New York, affect the residents of 1 million rent-regulated apartments across the state. It also affects the landlords of those buildings.

In the video above, The Local’s Khristopher J. Brooks offers a breakdown of some of the most significant changes.

Locals React to Rent Law Impasse

IMAG0153Khristopher J. Brooks A sign created by advocates for new rent laws.

As the hours tick by and criticism mounts, state lawmakers have not settled on a renewal plan for New York City rent laws.

Legislators in Albany allowed the law to expire Wednesday night and they’re now in extra innings trying to develop a solution that satisfies both Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said that he wants the law renewed in some form before the 2011 legislative session ends Monday.

Meanwhile, local tenants and tenant advocacy groups in our neighborhood are anxious to find out what will happen. They’re constantly checking news Web sites, e-mailing their contacts in the Capitol and taking their protest efforts to a higher level. Here’s some local reaction to the deliberations in Albany.

Steve Herrick
Executive Director
Cooper Square Committee

“I think it’s not surprising that it’s come down to the wire again because the Republicans have the majority in the Senate and so they have a little more leeway there, but luckily we have Gov. Cuomo on our side. Tenants are going to continue calling Cuomo and telling him they appreciate what he’s doing, but he has to continue to apply some pressure.”
Read more…

Locals Join Albany Rent Law Protest

Albany Rent Law Rally 1Khristopher J. Brooks Protesters at the rally.

ALBANY — Hundreds of New York City residents, including 33 from the East Village, converged on the state Capitol Building Monday trying to urge state lawmakers to renew and tweak the laws that govern apartment rent prices.

Leaders of the Cooper Square Committee, Real Rent Reform and Good Old Lower East Side, organized the rally, which muscled its way into the building, past legislators, up steps and eventually to the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Shouting “Fight! Fight! Fight! Housing is right!” the rally participants started on the fourth floor and then moved to whichever other corridor could accommodate them. They made noise, blew whistles, waved posters, banged on doors and clogged hallways.

“Right now, in Albany, our presence and our demands are being heard more than ever, more than I can ever remember,” said Wasim Lone, housing services director for Good Old Lower East Side.

At issue is how and at what rate landlords should be allowed to raise rent in future years. In its current form, the rent laws allow New York City landlords to dramatically increase the rent of a property immediately after a tenant has moved out. This practice, known as “vacancy decontrol” has resulted in roughly 300,000 empty rental units across New York City, said Marina Metalios, 48, a volunteer with Real Rent Reform.
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A Bus Trip to Back New Rent Laws

IMG_0158Khristopher J. Brooks The committee is an organizer of the trip.

Leaders of the Cooper Square Committee and the Good Old Lower East Side are organizing a free bus trip to Albany Monday so East Villagers can speak out in favor of changes to New York City rent laws.

“We’re planning to have a rally inside the Capitol,” said Georgina Christ, housing chairperson for Cooper Square Committee. “We’re just gonna make noise and try to talk to the elected officials.”

At issue is how and at what rate landlords will be allowed to raise rent in future years. Rent prices are a particularly hot-button issue for locals since the East Village is the home of some of the city’s most expensive rental properties.

As the law stands, Ms. Christ said, landlords are allowed to dramatically raise the rent of a property after a tenant has moved out, a practice known as “vacancy decontrol” that prevents future tenants from paying the same price for rent. Wasim Lone, the housing services director for Good Old Lower East Side, said vacancy decontrol is responsible for tens of thousands of vacant units around the East Village and the Lower East Side.
Read more…

Despite Stimulus, Problems at LES II

LES II ChristieIan Duncan Ruth Christie at home in her Lower East Side II apartment. Residents of the public housing project complain of damaged facilities and strong smells of sewage.

Ruth Christie was staying in wearing her pajamas and watching movies on VHS. She finds it hard to go out as she must constantly be attached to her oxygen tank to deal with her emphysema.

She has a motorized wheelchair but struggles to maneuver it out of her cramped apartment by herself. “Walking does a number on my breathing,” Ms. Christie, who is 59, said.

Ms. Christie said her condition worsened after she moved to Lower East Side II eight years ago. Residents of LES II complain of dark brown water coming from their taps. When washing machines are running, wastewater finds its way into the pipes, they say.

Residents also complain of intermittent heat and a smell of sewage. As early as February this year the smell was strong and according to Ms. Christie it gets worse most summers.

The Obama Administration turned on the stimulus tap just over two years ago, dedicating funds to improving the quality of public housing. $423 million was given to New York City to fix up its projects. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan chose the Rutgers Houses on the Lower East Side to announce the New York package in March 2010. “It’s probably the most significant preservation action in the history of public housing,” he said at the time.

Of the total, $1 million reached LES II and was invested in roof repairs. That work was completed last fall. The problem is that what the project probably needs is a new plumbing system, Marquis Jenkins, then a community organizer at Good Old Lower East Side, told the Local in February.

Read more…