Feb. 16, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
Before she entered the Queens Civil Court on Thursday morning, Feb. 16, to face her first court case filed by her landlord, who is allegedly trying to evict her from her home after rejecting his sexual advances, South Jamaica resident Carlene Hosang rallied with tenants calling on state lawmakers to pass the Good Cause Eviction law.
While holding signs that read “Housing is a Human Right” and “Good Cause Now” and chanting, “What do we want? Good Cause! When do we want it? Now!,” the protesters called on Albany legislators to pass Good Cause eviction protection, which would make it illegal for landlords to evict tenants unless they violated the lease agreement, and places limits on how much a landlord can raise rents each year.
The legislation would prevent arbitrary evictions for half of all renters in New York State and as many as 75% of tenants in some counties. The law would particularly impact women of color like Hosang. Statistics have shown that such women are disproportionately vulnerable to eviction. Black women, for example, are twice as likely to be evicted as white tenants.
Hosang’s story is a microcosm of what tenants all over New York are facing in the absence of state laws to prevent unjust evictions, according to advocates.
Hosang, a home care worker and immigrant from Jamaica who lives in her home with her two daughters said she first started facing harassment from her landlord near the end of 2019. The landlord, who lives in the building, allegedly began to make comments of a sexual nature to her that grew more frequent and explicit over time, including offers to cancel her rent if she would sleep with him, according to Hosang.
“I tried to brush it off and not pay no mind to it,” Hosang said. “He started passing remarks in front of my daughter, but because I respect his kids, I didn’t say anything. After realizing the depression he put me through…I went through a deep depression where I even lost money, and I went on Craigslist to look for a house.”
Hosang said she was hesitant to call the police about the landlord’s behavior because his son is a police officer. According to Hosang, the landlord repeatedly warned her that the police wouldn’t help her even if she reported him.
“He gave me a paper that he wanted me out by Nov. 30 last year. When the time came, he changed the lock. I didn’t call the cops because I was afraid. He turned off my heat the other day and I called the city,” Hosang said. “I refuse to stoop low. I’m not going low for anybody.”
Hosang was only able to regain access to the apartment when her daughter stepped in. In his effort to evict her from the apartment, Hosang’s landlord started a holdover case. This action is brought against a tenant or a person in the apartment who is not a tenant for reasons other than simple nonpayment of rent, according to the New York State Unified Court System.
After paying her rent on time for the past 13 years, keeping her apartment clean, and treating her neighbors with respect, Hosang said she could lose her home simply because her landlord decided to take advantage of his position.
“This is an abuse of power. It’s not right for landlords to hold so much power that they can kick people out on the streets just because they feel like it. Tenants must have the right to fight back against landlords who exploit and abuse them,” Hosang said.
Hosang expressed her gratitude to the community members who have been supporting her in the fight for her rights, and all vulnerable tenants in New York City.
“They’re like a family to me,” Hosang said. “When this started, they’re the only ones I could’ve called and they listened to me and understood what I’m going through. Other people may have gone through it before me, so they know how to deal with it. I really appreciate the turnout and how they stand up for me.”
Another tenant, Nahar Akber of Richmond Hill, shared her family’s struggle with their landlord, who turned off the electricity, water, and heat, leaving them to survive in the apartment for which they have consistently paid rent.
“The landlord cut off my heat, gas and water. The landlord sent me a letter saying that I have to leave their house this month. I live with my daughter and grandchild. I paid the rent continuously and stopped in January because they cut off my utilities,” Akber said. “Now they have stopped communicating with us, but I stood up against this injustice and fought back. I stood up because I want to show our community that if you stand up and fight back, they will fear this behavior.”
Advocates at the rally reiterated the importance of passing the Good Cause law and getting justice for both Akber and Hosang, and all vulnerable renters in New York.
“With Good Cause in place the vulnerable have extra protections, instead of the whims of predators,” said Jean Andre Sassine, co-chair of the Southeast Queens Chapter for NY Communities for Change. “There’s no retaliation if you bring up the hallway lighting, or the heat, no price gouging when your lease is up…no one needs to be a victim in this city or state.”
Bishop Melvin Artis Sr. of the Global Outreach Evangelistic Team Inc., called for unity to stem the tide of people who are being harassed and evicted from their homes, while also sending a message to local elected officials.
“When voting comes around we want you to know if you don’t do what is right, you can rest assured that you will be looking for another job,” he said.
Ozone Park resident Jeremy Maldonado, who is a member of NY Communities for Change, encouraged those who are going through a similar situation to contact the organization for assistance.
“If you’re going through something, please contact us. We will support you. A lot of my friends and families have gone through a similar situation of getting evicted with no just cause,” Maldonado said. “Honestly, I’ve been living here my entire life and I cannot count on my hands and toes how many people leave the city because they have no other choice.”
South Richmond Hill resident Aaron Fernando, communications lead For The Many, said organizers will be taking the fight to Albany this year to shift the balance of power to tenants and homeless people with a housing package (Our Homes Our Power) that will help all New Yorkers.
“The power dynamic in this case is clear: a few people with money, resources and power getting to make decisions for everybody else. One landlord decides whether to file an eviction and turn off the heat. One judge decides on the case. One governor decides whether the evictions keep on happening,” Fernando said. “Governor Hochul has the power to stop these evictions from happening and they let it happen. The only solution is to wrest power away from landlords and have our state leaders help tenants fight for themselves by passing Good Cause.”
Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice for All, is urging Hochul and Albany lawmakers to pass Good Cause this year and give tenants the tools they need to stand up to their landlords.
“Governor Hochul likes to talk about how she’s standing up for women. If she really means it, she’ll stand up for working-class women of color like Carlene, who are more likely to face eviction than any other group,” Weaver said.