Regina Hawkins-Balducci has finally gotten her wife’s name on their lease—but she had to threaten to sue her landlord first.
Hawkins-Balducci, a former dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, married her partner of 11 years in January. She then sent a copy of their marriage certificate to her landlord, DSA Management Inc., asking to have her wife, Millie, added to the lease on their rent-stabilized Harlem apartment.
She thought it was a routine request—but instead, a DSA representative told her, “I don’t care what kind of things you present to me. It’s not going to happen,” she told the Daily News in July.
The couple sought representation from Lambda Legal, a gay and lesbian-rights law group. In late June, Lambda sent DSA a letter urging them to grant the request, saying that if they refused, they could be sued for violating the state Marriage Equality Act, the Rent Stabilization Code, and various state and city human-rights laws. DSA missed the initial deadline of July 9—but by Aug. 1, it relented, agreeing to put Millie’s name on the lease.
A DSA spokesperson denied that the company’s motive was homophobia. He told the News that the issue was that Hawkins-Balducci “does not live in New York,” claiming she actually lived in Seattle.
Hawkins-Balducci said she’d never heard that claim before. “I absolutely live in my apartment,” she told the News. In a Lambda statement issued in June, she said she’d lived there for almost 15 years, and the couple has lived together there for the past seven years.
“After months of insults and harassment, we are happy that this issue is finally resolved,” she said in a statement released by Lambda on Aug. 1. “I hope no other same-sex couple in New York has to go through this.”
“It is unfortunate that the Balduccis had to retain lawyers and go through this emotionally taxing experience to protect their clearly established rights,” Lambda staff attorney Natalie Chin added. “The New York rent-stabilization laws are clear: Tenants have a right to ensure housing security for a spouse by having their spouse’s name added to a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled lease.”