During my tenure in the Assembly representing our community, the landscape for housing rights has changed dramatically — especially over the past two years.
The Democratic-controlled Assembly went from winning scraps at the negotiating table in the face of staunch Republican opposition to winning major victories that have helped countless thousands — if not millions — of New Yorkers.
The struggle for housing rights was my introduction into public service and the world of government. As a teenager, I learned to knock on doors volunteering with local housing activists. Over the years, I went to tenant meetings and helped people with rent issues.
My experience talking face-to-face with tenants — even as a teenager, hearing firsthand about negligent landlords and shoddy housing conditions — still shapes my political ideology these many years later. I have spent nearly my entire life fighting for housing justice on the ground and doing the work that needed to be done to make people’s lives a little bit better.
Over the years, I have lived in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments, public housing, Mitchell-Lama housing, and a co-op. I’ve lived in nearly every type of housing except a private home, so I understand housing in New York and the issues that so many New Yorkers face.
Over the past two years, I have seen many ideas — often inspired by the stories I continue to hear from people like you — come to fruition and benefit New Yorkers. In 2019, the legislature passed the landmark Housing Stability and Tenant Protect Act. This omnibus legislation combined a list of longtime Assembly priorities, including two planks that were derived from my own legislation on rent overcharges and security deposits.
In 2020, I passed another longtime priority bill which significantly strengthened tenants’ rights with court-ordered repairs. I authored this bill in 2002 after a tragic fire took the life of a Norwood resident, young Jashawn Parker. I passed it in the Assembly 17 times before the state senate finally got on board.
Also in 2020, I authored and passed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act to deal with the fallout from COVID-19 by preventing evictions for tenants who experience financial hardship during the pandemic — although tenants can still face a money judgment.
This legislation was followed by the creation of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the 2021 state budget, which uses nearly $3 billion of federal money from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, as well as state dollars to pay rent arrears for people impacted by the pandemic.
At the end of 2020, I also authored and passed the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act — and extended it twice in 2021 — legislation that has undoubtedly prevented tens of thousands of evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. It is in effect through Jan. 15.
In addition, my office and I have helped countless people fight back against unacceptable living conditions, and those landlords who are greedy. When a real estate investor bought up the homes of hundreds of tenants across nine buildings — including on Perry Avenue in Norwood and Independence Avenue in Spuyten Duyvil — and tried to kick them all out just before the Christmas holiday, we stepped up and helped organize a defense team of housing advocates and attorneys to fight back.
When people on Sedgwick Avenue were forced to share one bathroom with multiple neighbors while the landlord did gut-renovations and applied for a rent increase from the state, we gathered colleagues, advocates and attorneys, and helped these tenants win their fight for better conditions and prevented a rent increase.
When people throughout my district — including on Greystone Avenue, Henry Hudson Parkway and in the Marble Hill Houses — didn’t have basic utilities like heat, hot water or gas service, we leveraged my public platform to get these repairs done.
The work that I have done, alongside my colleagues and our Bronx community, has prevented thousands of people from becoming homeless, and has led to better housing conditions for New Yorkers.
My tweets may not get the most retweets and likes, and I don’t have catchy, simplistic slogans that fit neatly on a bumper sticker or T-shirt or protest sign, but I get results.
And to those in our community who lost their jobs during the pandemic but didn’t lose their homes, or who were living in horrible conditions that have now been fixed, getting results matters far more than slogans and social media metrics.
My office remains available to those who need help addressing their housing rights, and I am proud of our team and our expertise. I can be contacted at (718) 796-5345, or at email@example.com. We are also available at our office at 3107 Kingsbridge Ave.
We still have much work to do. But my commitment, energy and enthusiasm are stronger than ever.
The author is the Assemblyman representing the 81st district, which includes Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, Kingsbridge Heights and Marble Hill