Tenants at Capitol Crossings win significant concessions after months-long organizing campaign, including 5% limit on rent increases and guaranteed lease renewals
Capitol Crossings has become a flash point in the statewide fight for Good Cause eviction protections
ALBANY – Tenants at a major Albany housing complex declared victory this week against a corporate landlord that had been raising rents and harassing tenants. The tenants at Capitol Crossings, a 279-unit development that has historically housed low-income and subsidized families, won major concessions that would keep rents stable and protect tenants from unjust evictions, including limiting rent increases to 5% and guaranteeing lease renewals to any tenant in good standing.
“When a corporate landlord from hundreds of miles away came in and tried to turn our homes into luxury condos, they might have thought we’d just give in. But we came together and demanded that our voices be heard, and as a result, our neighbors can stay in their homes. We hope that we can inspire other tenants around New York to not back down in the face of an abusive landlord. By fighting for our rights, we can keep the homes we love and win better living conditions for the long haul,” said Jazmia VanHoesen, President of the Bleecker Terrace Tenants Association.
The West End complex, formerly known as Bleecker Terrace, was sold in March for $17.1 million to M3 Equities, a New Jersey-based investment firm. After the sale, the firm began hiking up rents, to the point where one-bedroom apartments that previously listed for less than $800 were advertised for $1,200 in April. Tenants were only offered month-to-month leases. The occupancy rate at the complex is now just 72 percent. The new owner also refused to address basic maintenance issues, even as tenants raised concerns about deplorable conditions including flooding, sewage, mold, and infestations.
In the spring, tenants began organizing, with the help of Common Council Member Alfredo Balerin, United Tenants of Albany, the Center for Law and Justice, and other community organizations. Tenants knocked on doors and held meetings to inform their neighbors of their rights and, eventually, formed the Bleecker Terrace Tenants Association to demand stable rents, comprehensive repairs, an accurate accounting of rent that was due, and respect and dignity in their homes.
In response, management led a campaign of harassment and intimidation against tenants, including in one shocking incident, sending a security guard carrying an AR-15 rifle and a handgun to warn a group of children not to use an outdoor grill.
Tenants were undeterred, and last Wednesday, held a meeting with the CEO of Opus Management Group, where they were able to win significant concessions from the property management company, including:
- An agreement to guarantee lease renewals to anyone in good standing and limit rent increases to less than 5% annually. As part of the agreement, the tenant association will inform tenants and create a list of tenants that would like to be fast tracked for lease renewals.
- Management will address maintenance concerns that the tenant association presented, including pest, drainage and carpet issues.
- Management will honor any rent payment that a tenant can prove they have made, even if a former owner lost or misplaced the payment. Management will write off those losses.
- Management will give tenants 48 hours notice before accessing their homes, as well as give written notice if anyone enters a unit and the work that was done in the unit.
The complex became a microcosm of the statewide fight over the Good Cause eviction bill, legislation that (S3082/A5573) would protect tenants from steep rent hikes and getting unfairly kicked out of their homes. Under Good Cause, tenants in the building would have additional tools to fight unjust rent increases and sudden evictions. The state legislature failed to pass Good Cause, which commands the support of more than two in three likely voters in New York, in the most recent legislative session, and supporters are gearing up for a renewed effort to win the legislation next year.
“Tenants at Bleecker Terrace should be commended for the bravery they showed in fighting to stay in their homes. But they should never have had to face this fight to begin with. This case shows that we need a statewide law to protect tenants from the whims of landlords and more tools to help tenants organize against landlords who try to exploit them. Lawmakers in Albany should see this case as all the proof they need to pass Good Cause eviction this session now and make sure no more tenants are left out in the cold,” said Canyon Ryan, Executive Director of United Tenants of Albany, Inc