Tenant Movement Mourns Leslie Holmes, Dead at 39

Leslie D’Cora Holmes died suddenly of a brain aneurysm on July 5, and the tenant movement lost in one instant an invaluable leader, friend, and advocate. Leslie worked with enormous energy and strength to protect tenants and revitalize city and statewide tenant-advocacy coalitions. Born in Rochester, Leslie was a community organizer in Mount Vernon in 1980. After graduating from New York University School of Law in 1986, she became a housing staff attorney in the Harlem neighborhood office of the Legal Aid Society. In 1989, she became a supervising attorney in the Harlem Legal Aid office. She had been a tenant representative on the city Rent Guidelines Board for the last three years.

Leslie was a tireless and enthusiastic advocate for low-income tenants. Her ability to combine an incredible strength of character with composure and kindness made her a joy to work with and a source of inspiration.

In the past year, Leslie helped establish the Harlem Organizing Coordinating Committee and the Harlem Tenants Council. She was instrumental in organizing, planning and building a working coalition for this year’s Tenant Lobby Day in Albany and in building towards a forceful tenant presence (Showdown ’97) to protect the rent regulations due to expire in 1997. Her presence on the Rent Guidelines Board was felt both publicly and privately, where she tirelessly and effectively advocated for tenant interests and brought a dignified and sensible demeanor to those proceedings. She also served on the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court.

Her death at age 39, while teaching in Bennington, Vermont, is a tragic loss for all those who worked with Leslie and for the future work she had planned. Having taken a leave of absence from the Legal Aid Society, Leslie was to start teaching at Columbia University School of Law as a visiting faculty member in the fall.

As a friend, colleague, and co-worker in these struggles Leslie will be missed. As an inspiration and guide she will be remembered. 


Kenneth Rosenfeld was Leslie Holmes’ colleague as tenant
representative on the Rent Guidelines Board.