Trilingual Tenant Protest in Jackson Heights

One hundred years ago this month, New Yorkers protested the Triangle Fire with speeches in English, Spanish, and Yiddish. On Feb. 26 in Queens, about 75 people protested tenant harassment and demanded that the state strengthen its rent laws—with speeches in English, Spanish, and Bengali.

The demonstration took place outside 37-60 88th St. in Jackson Heights. “I want to tell you about the kinds of abuses committed by landlords,” building tenant Luis Pelaez said in Spanish. “I have been paying an illegally high rent for more than four years.” He said his rent was raised in 2006 from $1,139 a month to $1,500, after the lease was transferred into his name.

The protest was organized by Make the Road New York, Assemblymember Francisco Moya, City Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, and the Real Rent Reform Campaign. After the rally on 88th Street, the demonstrators marched around the corner to 87-15 37th Ave. That building’s landlord recently called the police on tenants trying to hold a meeting there, Leandra Requena of Make the Road NY told the group.

Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, and Corona, home to tens of thousands of immigrants from Latin America, India, Bangladesh, are among the most overcrowded neighborhoods in the city. More than one-sixth of homes there are “severely overcrowded,” occupied by well over one person per room, according to Pratt Center figures. Meanwhile, there are apartments renting for more than $2,000 a month all over the borough.