Social Media and Opportunities for Tenant Organizing!

Given that you are at our blog, I assume that you are aware that in the past six months at UHAB, we have embarked on a mission: to use social media and online networking to expand our capacity as tenant organizers in New York City. It’s been a fun experiment, and we’re all learning every day about ways to expand readership, get more twitter followers, and more Facebook likes.

While we have been tweeting away, tenants at 230-232 Schenectady Avenue haven’t been so fortunate. This 12-unit property has 287 violations, and is on the AEP list of the 200 worst buildings in the city. It’s in foreclosure, with a debt of $1.1 million and the bank is – you guessed it – New York Community Bank.

Despite their very real plight, tenants at 230-232 Schenectady have been incredibly willing to help us with our social-media project, while we help them get money out of their bank to improve conditions in their homes. If you visit Picture This, you’ll see some of the horrendous conditions that tenants live with at 230-232 Schenectady Ave.  When we described this project – to document bad conditions in NYCB buildings and create an online forum for tenants in similar situations to see that they are not alone – to tenants at Schenectady Ave, they gave us two rolls of developed pictures.

But they haven’t seen the website. While some of the tenants have computers, in the past two years, three apartments have been completely ravaged by electrical fires due to old and faulty wiring. While two of those families are back in their homes, one remains at a shelter, and none of them have been reimbursed for the huge loss of property as a result of the fire. Tenants who have computers are afraid of plugging them into their wall sockets because the high-voltage that the machines require might cause fire, and irrevocable damage to their homes and their lives. While plugging in a computer may seem like a luxury in the face of their other violations (sagging staircases and ceilings, lack of security, rodents, poor plumbing), having working electricity should be a given. Living without fear of fire should be a given. And if you have a computer, you should be able to use it ! This is 2011, and this is another way that the tenants we work with are denied the things that the rest of us have come to take for granted.

To go back to social media and tenant organizing: last week we “tweeted” that tenants in 230-232 Schenectady had been living in bad conditions long enough. We asked NYS Senator Eric Adams for his help. Today, his staff “re-tweeted” and tenants in 230-232 Schenectady have an appointment to meet with him and discuss their conditions issues, and their grievances with the bank. Let us hope it proves useful, and that tenants in this building will get some relief this summer!


Remapping Debate: “Gov. Cuomo’s faux victory on behalf of NYC Renters”

Remapping Debate provides a good breakdown of how yesterday’s decision on rent regulation and reform is in fact a continuation of long standing policy that hurts low-income renters.

June 22, 2011 — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo may describe a tentative deal on extending rent regulation for millions of New York City tenants as one representing “significant progress,” but the reality is that he has left the trigger points at which apartments are deregulated worse for tenants than they were 14 years ago, when then-Governor George Pataki first orchestrated legislative changes designed to destroy rent regulation. The fundamental levers of deregulation that Pataki put in place are untouched by Cuomo’s paltry efforts.

Read more at Remapping Debate.

Final Push in Campaign to Strengthen Rent Laws

The New York State Rent Laws are set to expire TOMORROW. So, what does this mean for tenants?

New York State’s rent laws, which allow for the continued existence of rent regulation, expire or “sunset” periodically. When the laws are scheduled to sunset, the state legislature has to decide whether or not to extend them. Our rent regulation system protects tenants from the negative impacts of the severe housing shortage we face, such as speculative and unwarranted rent increases and baseless or retaliatory eviction, so if the rent laws were allowed to sunset it would have catastrophic consequences for tenants.

The final week of the legislative session is upon us. Tenants will keep fighting until the laws are not just renewed, but strengthened. Governor Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos all agree that rent stabilization should continue to exist in New York. Even landlord lobby groups and other spokespeople for the real estate industry have acknowledged that the laws should be renewed. This means that tenant advocates are focusing on pushing for pro-tenant reforms of the laws. The session ends on June 20 and tenant advocates are committed to fighting until then if necessary to get the strongest possible bill rather than accepting a weaker bill sooner.

How can you help win real rent reform this year?

  • Attend a rally in front of Governor Cuomo’s New York City office for stronger rent laws, TOMORROW, Wednesday June 15 at 5:00 PM in front of 633 Third Ave between 41st and 42nd Street.
  • Join the Real Rent Reform Campaign in Albany. There will be a bus departing for Albany tomorrow, Wednesday June 15, at 10:00 AM from 95th & Broadway (in front of McDonalds). Contact Larry Wood from Goddard Riverside to reserve your free seat on the bus at 212-873-6600 or
  • Buses are scheduled to depart every day until the rent laws are renewed. Contact or call 212-608-4320 ex 306 for more information.

Guest post by Jessie Levine of New York State Tenants & Neighbors
For more information on the Real Rent Reform (R3) campaign, click here.