HARLEM, Manhattan — Rev. Elissa Lescay and Valarie johnson live at the Harlem River Houses.
They say they are helping lead a rent strike, starting May 1. After months of organizing, Monday night was their first official meeting about the strike, organized by Justice For All Coalition and United Front Against Displacement.
“Tenants will continue to pay rent and put it into an escrow account that is being organized by a lawyer here at Harlem River and Fulton,” said Akiva Zamcheck of the United Front Against Displacement.
Organizers say they already have over a dozen residents from Harlem River houses signed up and several tenants from the Fulton Houses, like Mary Hicks.
“We’ve done everything else. This is the last straw,” said Hicks.
Their main focus, they say, is fighting against a public private partnership called RAD/PACT which stands for Rental Assistance Demonstration. It’s a federal program that converts apartments into the Section 8 housing program.
Valarie Johnson from Harlem River houses says she has a lot of questions, and she says until she knows more, she refuses to sign a new lease.
“They are keeping us in the dark on how it works,” said Johnson.
New York plans to convert nearly a third of its public housing, about 62,000 units, to private management. NYCHA’s CEO Greg Russ and Mayor Bill de Blasio have promised residents they will not be displaced and say it is the best way for the city to come up with millions of dollars for much needed repairs.
These residents say the Biden administration’s promised to put in billions to finally fund NYCHA repairs and that public housing should stay public.
“The Biden administration is putting the money into repairs, we have it. The funding is going to come,” said Rev. Lescay.
Not everyone agrees with this plan of action.
“I am against the strike. People should do what they feel they need to do. But at the end of the day, thy will shall be done,” said Yvonne Lindesay, the Vice President of the tenant association at Harlem River Houses.
A NYCHA spokesperson responded to PIX11 News’ request for comment.
“PACT has already raised nearly $1.8 billion in capital and brought repairs to more than 9,500 apartments. These groups are willfully spreading misinformation and encouraging residents to settle for the status quo. NYCHA is engaging with thousands of residents across our PACT portfolio to ensure families not only have access to accurate information about the program but also play a role in helping to shape these historic investments.”
This Saturday, tenants are planning a rally at 1 p.m. at Colonel Charles Young Triangle Park.