WXXI AM News

Rochester tenants join Albany rally calling for statewide rights

May 14, 2019

A busload of tenants, formerly homeless people, and housing advocates traveled Tuesday from Rochester to Albany, where they expected to join thousands of others for a rally at the State Capitol.

With Democrats now in charge of both the Senate and Assembly, many advocates are urging lawmakers to pass new statewide protections for renters. 

"Rent just keeps getting higher and higher every year, and it's getting harder to pay my rent and maintain bills because it's just too high," said Barbara Rivera of Rochester.

In addition to statewide rent control, Rivera wants legislation that would make it easier for tenants to take landlords to court over maintenance issues. She supports the proposal to create a dedicated housing court in Rochester to specifically handle those cases.

Rivera said she lived in a Thurston Road apartment with a history of code violations. Last year, she said, plaster from the ceiling fell on her and her 6-month-old daughter.

"Thank God it was wet plaster,” she said, “so the material wasn't heavy or hard enough to hurt any of us, but it was still shocking to have that fall on top of us."

She said her former landlord claimed a tenant made the hole in her ceiling, but Rivera said with rusty pipes and mold, it was clearly a lack of maintenance that caused the damage.

Home Leasing purchased the apartment building at 447 Thurston Road where Rivera and her children lived.  The company has promised to “extensively rehabilitate” the property. In the meantime, Rivera and her now 1-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son have moved to a two-bedroom apartment on Cady Street.

"It's safe,” she said. “It's quiet. My children love it. That's very important for me, to see them comfortable and happy, being able to run outside and not have to worry about gang members and people shooting."

Tuesday’s rally in Albany comes as lawmakers are expected to renew the state laws governing rent control and stabilization rules in and around New York City.  Lawmakers have held multiple hearings on the rent rules, with another planned for Thursday in Brooklyn. A vote to either renew or tweak the existing rules is expected next month.