On Saturday, September 21st, tenants from many walks of life gathered with organizers, attorneys, politicians, and others in the NYC housing world to talk about issues that affect them. The 8th Annual West Side Tenants’ Conference, which is run by tenant volunteers, took place at Fordham University’s School of Law at Lincoln Center.
The day started off with a free light breakfast and twenty-one information tables run by NYC organizations and political offices. Housing Conservation Coordinators gave out free tote bags filled with information on saving energy and reducing waste, maintaining a healthy environment in the home, an educational coloring book about asthma , and flyers for local free legal clinics on immigration and other issues. There were also free on-site assistance tables for issues with rent arrears, SCRIE and DRIE application help, and a representative from NYCHA present to answer questions.
The Keynote Address was delivered by State Senator Brad M. Hoylman, who talked about how essential campaign finance reform will be to working on affordable housing legislation. Before he spoke, appearances were made by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, and City Council member Gale Brewer.
Workshops throughout the day discussed varied topics such as fighting tenant harassment, demanding repairs as a tenant association, HP actions, Major Capital Increases, fighting against illegal use of a building by landlords, what affordable housing is and how to find it, and tenants’ rights concerning bedbugs. Workshops specifically targeting seniors included estate planning, housing benefits for seniors, and succession rights, and there were also specialized workshops about NYCHA, Mitchell-Lama and HUD-subsidized housing.
The conference was hosted by eleven local organizations and seven NYC politicians. One of these organizations, the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, is made up of tenants in Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Upper West Side. Their campaigns focus on tenant rights and protections, permanent affordable housing, increasing quality of life, and neighborhood-wide issues such as rezoning.
We applaud everyone who put energy into creating and executing this conference for the people of the West Side. It was well attended, and the tenants who came out learned useful information and were connected with valuable resources. Centering a conference around one neighborhood or group of neighborhoods can contribute to a sense of pride and unity in the tenants who live there. UHAB and Crown Heights Assembly are experimenting with this concept of neighborhood-wide organizing as we collaborate on the Crown Heights Tenant Union in Brooklyn. Here’s to the power of information, and how it can be used for positive change in our neighborhoods.