With their eyes squarely on tenants, State Senator Jesse Hamilton, along with Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, hosted a “Know Your Rights” forum in Sunset Park, this time on the topic of housing.
Over 100 concerned residents attended the event at the Sunset Park Recreation Center to ask questions, learn about their rights, participate in workshops and listen to information provided by elected officials, city agencies and community groups.
“We’re here today to have a housing forum because housing is a big issue now in our community, said Hamilton. “I see a lot of abuse in our community when it comes to housing. And we want to make sure no one is harassed by their landlords and we’re here today to make sure we get that word across.”
Attending the panel were representatives from Pratt Area Community Council, South Brooklyn Legal Services, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, UPROSE, Housing Preservation and Development, and the Department of Finance.
“We have tenants that are facing eviction, questions about repairs, leases and rents,” said Marcela Mitaynes of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. “We’re trying to help tenants understand legislation.”
District Leader Arelis Martinez, also attending the forum, addressed her own concerns with the community. “People are here tonight because they have questions and fear of losing their apartments. We have issues in Sunset Park. It’s become an expensive community,” she said.
“People have fear because some landlords are offering money to get them out,” Martinez added.
Pricing out residents was also a topic of discussion. “We want to be able to stay in our homes,” said Ana Orozco of UPROSE. “We’re concerned about any sort of development that comes into Sunset Park that might displace us. We’re not anti-development. We’re anti displacement.”
“We’re doing so much in the city to bring more affordable housing to our community. We’re not going to build our way out of this problem,” said Menchaca, adding that residents ask him about landlords that are using intimidation practices and providing basic needs, such as gas. “If you live in a property today where the landlords are not bringing quality housing, we’re going to fix that.”
“It’s a form of harassment. These landlords are trying not to spend a single dime on making repairs and these buildings are over 100 years old. You have to fight for landlords for the repairs,” added Mitaynes.” This is why it’s so important that you understand your rights but it’s more important to get together with your neighbors and fight so they understand you are not going away.”
Hamilton reiterated his commitment to continuing such forums in the future in Sunset. “We’re going to be here in Sunset Park at least every other week to make sure the concerns of the community are addressed,” he promised.