Thousands Storm Albany on Tenant Lobby Day

Dozens of buses filled with tenants from Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and around the state converged on the state capitol on Tuesday, May 21, for a strong demonstration in support of tenants’ rights and affordable housing.More than 2,000 tenants demanded that the rent-regulation laws, which prevent unlimited rent increases and protect tenants against arbitrary evictions when their leases expire, be preserved. “The idea of reinventing government by ending its role of protecting all citizens, even the weak against the strong, must not be a basis for allowing a sharp worsening of the housing crisis that would come with deregulation,” said Met Council board member Kenny Schaeffer.

Tenants also demanded renewal of the Loft Law, which protects 10,000 tenants in 5,000 units and expires June 30. With owners and the Giuliani administration calling for deregulation or crippling cuts, this fight is a preview of the enormous battle looming in June 1997, when the rent stabilization and rent control laws are set to expire.

Tenants also called for the preservation of existing affordable housing by giving New York City money to hire 500 more code inspectors. The city now has less than 200 housing inspectors to cover all five boroughs, down from 700 in the late 1970s. These inspectors bring in fines which more than pay for the costs of the program, and also encourage voluntary compliance by owners, helping preserve the housing stock at no cost to the city whatsoever.

Tenants also demanded more justice in Housing Court, where 20,000 to 25,000 families are evicted annually, and denounced real-estate industry proposals to further silence unrepresented tenants by requiring mandatory rent deposits. Strong support was given to restoring funds for the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court, which operates in all five boroughs providing information to litigants who don’t have lawyers.