HARLEM, N.Y. — There is no disputing the fact the cost of living is skyrocketing across New York City.
Thursday night’s rally at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem was the latest call for action among tenants and their advocates to reign in rising rents and find a way to ward off the negative effects of gentrification, namely evictions.
“Many of us have been living in these buildings for 20, 30, 40 years,” said Queens tenant Henry Alvarracin.
A host of elected officials and tenant advocates packed the church sanctuary.
This gathering as much a rally, as it was an opportunity for these politicians to pledge their commitment, in front of this crowd - to Universal Rent Control.
It’s a set of nine legislative bills up for a vote in Albany – which would bolster tenant rights, and limit the circumstances under which a landlord can evict tenants.
“Are we going to be a city, where working people can survive, and this is what this movement is about,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The rally later turned into a march, ten blocks south down Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard to the state office building, also named for the legendary former pastor of Abyssinian, and member of Congress.
Struggling tenants say they are taking a stand, in some cases their last, in an effort to hold on to their apartments before they are priced out for good.
“I wanna [sic] be able to do what I have been doing in the community I come from, but I can’t do that. With the way that the ret costs, I would have to move,” said Bronx tenant Shameka Thorne.
The president of REBNY, John H. Banks said they are working with lawmakers on rent reforms as the "affordability crisis" continues.
"We look forward to working with lawmakers on responsible rent reforms. For the first time, New York City added more rent stabilized units than it lost and the eviction rate is at all-time low. The real crisis is the affordability crisis, yet the proposals we’ve seen so far do nothing to ease vacancy rates, make apartments more affordable, create a single new affordable unit, or address tough enforcement on bad actors. Instead they will put more than 400,000 rent stabilized units at risk of financial distress, harm living conditions for tenants and reduce the city’s property tax collections.”