Among those who rallied were tenants from Grand Management Tenant Coalition, a group of Bushwick residents who have raised concerns about their landlord.
Lucy Hunter, a resident at 431 Bleecker Street, attended the march, and was dressed head to toe in snow gear. She said she and her neighbors spent last winter with “intermittent heat,” but also “exorbitant $800 heating bills.”
They suffered through holes in their floors and ceilings after their radiators were ripped out without any notice, she said.
Hunter also accused Grand Management Services, which runs the building, of different treatment for tenants of color.
She said their lawyers have filed a human rights complaint alleging that the white tenants were offered $100 during the building’s heating problems, when tenants were given small space-heaters and hot plates, to help offset expected increase in electrical bills.
“Our next step is to try to have a criminal investigation launched against this person who’s had a persistent history of fraud and intimidation for the last 20 years and has gone unchecked,” she said.
The Bushwick tenant said the landlord has fought back against tenants. She said she herself was sued for $25,000 for a set of Home Depot cabinets that she painted white.
More importantly, the landlord named the tenant group’s attorney, Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, in the “frivolous litigation.”
“It’s a way of making representation more difficult for tenant associations, given the limited resources,” Hunter said.
As winter approaches this year, Hunter said at least their apartments and heat have been restored in time for the cold.
“It’s a testament to the power of people coming together,” she said. “Those outcomes would not have happened, and have not happened, in buildings that are afraid to organize or have not yet organized.”
Another organization that joined the march was Woodside on the Move, whose tenants have been organizing against the state’s Major Capital Improvement (MCI) program.
Ivan Contreras, the lead organizer of the campaign, said most of the groups at the march are supporting a package of legislation strengthening tenant protections in the state.
Those bills would abolish MCIs, preferential rent and the vacancy bonus. Another bill would force landlords to have cause for evicting tenants. The goal is universal rent regulation for all housing units.
“This movement is strong right now, the tenants are realizing that,” Contreras said. “No matter what happens with the weather, with the snow, they came. Woodside on the Move, they were ready to protest.”
With the new Democratic majority in the State Senator, Contreras said this upcoming legislative session is the best time to make sure housing protections are stronger than ever.
“We can make history, but we cannot rest,” he said. “We have to work harder now that we have the opportunity.”