Sunset hosts ‘Know Your Rights’ workshop for local tenants

Elected officials and local organizations want Sunset residents to know their rights.

On Tuesday, May 24, Borough President Eric Adams hosted a “Know Your Rights” workshop at Sunset Park High School for local tenants that have struggled with residential displacement issues.

Although there was a small turnout by residents, advocates and lawyers from Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (BLSC A) held a conference to discuss rights that they may not know that they have, providing examples and personal consultation. The event accommodated both English and Spanish speakers.

“To rent a home in Sunset Park, the average household must spend nearly six of every 10 dollars earned on rent, an unsustainable burden that prevents families from saving and leaves them vulnerable to displacement from the neighborhood,” Adams said in a statement.

“Sunset Park is facing a tremendous amount of pressure as the neighborhood goes through changes,” Ryan Lynch, policy director for Adams, told this paper. “We need to arm our long-term residents with the tools and knowledge so that they can understand the housing rights they do have to fight off discriminatory housing issues.”

Fair Housing Advocate from BLSC A Caroline Iosso led the conference. “As a tenant, you have rights to repairs, heat and water, and the right to make a complaint and go to court with your landlord,” she said.

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus

Though there are several organizations in the city that discuss tenants’ rights and protections, BLSC A focus on individuals being discriminated against. “Rents are getting higher, people are getting pushed out, harassed, and we have lawyers and advocates that take terrible landlords to court,” she said.

According to BLSC A, the majority of their clients aren’t young or affluent white people. “We realized it was happening to minorities at a disproportionate level, so we wanted to use these federal laws to combat what these malicious landlords were doing in terms of harassment and frivolous eviction without any merit,”she said.

Section 8 voucher holders have also been discriminated against. “I want to highlight this,” said Iosso. “It’s illegal under city law to say you don’t accept Section 8. “

Among the illegal activity mentioned were landlords making apartments unavailable to minorities and current tenants not receiving essential repairs, such as heat,  and corrections to structural damage. “That is a trend that ends up pushing people out of homes. If you haven’t gotten repairs for 20 years or your ceiling falls on your child while you’re sleeping, like happened to one of our clients, while the apartment next door is renovated and beautiful, and the tenants are paying God knows what, that is illegal and actionable,” she said.

That has been an ongoing problem in the community. Earlier this year, the Village of Sunset Park held a forum at a local senior home to listen to  tenants’ issues. ““I live in a co-op. I’m one of the last tenants there,” said a Sunset senior at that time. “It’s a nice apartment so what they’ve done is harass me to get me out. The stove doesn’t work too well, and they broken all the walls inside my apartment.”

It’s precisely that which elected officials are hoping to stop. “The loss of affordable housing by irresponsible landlords who force tenants out by neglecting their properties and harassing tenants must stop,” said Assemblymember Felix Ortiz.


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