December 2019: Standing With Tenants As They Fight For Their Homes

We’ve been on the front lines helping people keep one of the most vital and intrinsic parts of their lives – their homes. Our housing team works with tenants and organizers across the city to fight for their rights to fair, affordable, and safe housing. We work with grassroots groups, tenants’ associations and community coalitions to make sure that people of color, immigrants and low-income residents are not ignored or pushed out of NYC in the name of “progress.”

Take our work with families living in the East Village. We represented the tenant association at 444 E 13th Street in a rent strike that lasted over two years. The tenant association started to organize when the building was purchased by a predatory landlord and they saw the conditions in their building rapidly deteriorating. The tenants started to withhold their rent after a bitter winter without heat.

Later that year, the landlord declared bankruptcy and the tenants at 444 E 13th Street, along with 15 other buildings, were put in legal limbo. His bankruptcy meant that the tenants, many families and folks who had lived there for years, had less ability to hold the landlord accountable. Though the tenants attempted to speak with him to settle their many legal claims, the landlord refused to negotiate with them. Instead, he threatened to use the bankruptcy law to end all of the rent-stabilized tenants’ leases. The tenants felt even more desperate as the danger of losing their homes increased.

As the landlord planned to end these leases by filing a motion in bankruptcy court, TakeRoot assembled a legal team of expert bankruptcy attorneys and worked with the NY Attorney General’s office to intervene in the case on the side of the tenants. Together, we built an advocacy campaign to engage local officials and get the word out to the press.

The tenant association rallied in front of their building in March 2019, alongside Maria Torres-Springer, the former Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and NY Attorney General Leticia James. Facing media backlash, the owner backed down and agreed to give the tenants new leases as well as a rental abatement.

Victories like these show how day to day lives change when power is taken back from exploiters – what can be accomplished when communities join together to stop injustice. These triumphs are only possible with your support; please make a donation to stand with us and fuel TakeRoot Justice’s work. Your donation means so much as we fight to make New York City a more equitable place.