Good Cause Eviction could be the best hope for tenants of 917 Manhattan Avenue.
Eviction Moratorium legislation has protected tenants from being evicted during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis. In addition, St. Nicks Alliance and other community advocates have been busy during the pandemic to help tenants remain in their homes when those moratoriums end.
The case of 917 Manhattan Avenue and 156 Kent Street concerns a corner building where some tenants who have lived there over forty-five years are being threatened with eviction. The building’s previous owner had kept the tenants’ rents affordable for them, but the building was sold after this landlord passed away. It was communicated to the tenants that the new owner, Elizabeth Tapper, wanted them to move. The tenants formed a tenants’ association and petitioned for their building to become rent stabilized on the grounds that it is a horizontal multiple dwelling (HMD). Tapper filed to evict the tenants. The court recently ruled against changing the building’s status to rent stabilized, so now the tenants are at risk of being evicted after the moratorium ends. Tapper reportedly said she would raise the rents much higher, which she had done to other units of the building.
St. Nicks Alliance helped to organize the tenants in hosting a rally in front of their building on May 10, 2021. Joining the rally were elected leaders: NYS Senator Julia Salazar, Assembly Members Emily Gallagher and Zohran Kwame Mamdani, District Leader Kristina Naplatarski, Ben Solotaire (representing NYC Council Member Stephen Levin), and NYC Council Member Brad Lander. Community organizations were also there to support: UNO (United Neighbors Organization), Southside United HDFC — Los Sures, Communities Resist, Make the Road New York, Housing Justice for All, and Rude Mechanical Orchestra, among others.
This rally was to call attention to displacement threat these long-time tenants and neighbors face, and to promote their new hope: the Good Cause Eviction Legislation NYS Senate Bill, S2892B, sponsored by Salazar. The NYS Assembly version of the bill is A5030B. This legislation would protect tenants, even those who are without a lease, from eviction unless the landlord provides a court order and shows good cause for removal. Good cause for eviction does includes failure to pay rent, but it is not good cause if the tenant received a rent increase that was unreasonable.
“There are so many families that have been pushed out of this district and pushed out of this neighborhood. This is due to the loss of affordable housing. It is absolutely outrageous when a property owner comes in and purchases buildings like this for their own gain. There are tenants that have lived in this building since the 70s. And through no fault of their own, they are living in fear of losing their homes. Because the law does not protect them from what the property owner is seeking to do, which is to raise some of their rents by 500%,” said Senator Julia Salazar at the May 10 rally.
Many of the tenants of this building are senior and have limited incomes. The rents they were paying under the previous landlord were affordable to them. They have lived a majority of their lives in this community.