AAFE hosted a celebration with our Chinatown tenant leaders Saturday, Sept. 14 to look back on the big victories for affordable housing in New York City this year and to gear up for the battles ahead.
We have always believed that community members are their own best advocates. This year, AAFE helped organize tenants from Chinatown and Queens to join forces with housing activists from across the state to advocate for reforms in New York’s rent law. In June, the State Legislature approved the strongest tenant protections we’ve seen in decades. In the past two years, our tenants have also stepped up their presence at Rent Guidelines Board hearings. While we were disappointed in the board’s decision this year to impose rent hikes, there was a big show of force from our community.
AAFE housing counselors Roxy Chang and Wai Yip talked with residents about the importance of showing up, testifying at hearings and speaking out at rallies. They emphasized our coalition work with groups like Stabilizing NYC and Housing Justice for All, which help raise the collective voices of all communities of color. Tenants also heard from a special guest, Fitzroy Christian, a longtime community leader in the Bronx from Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA). “Even though we won (in Albany),” said Christian, “there’s a long battle ahead. We must stay united, stay engaged and make sure the politicians keep their promises. The landlords have a lot of money, but we have a lot of people.”
There was also an opportunity for residents to tell their own stories. One longtime Chinatown tenant, Man Fu Chiu, recalled AAFE’s successful campaign in the 1980s to block the City of New York’s Manhattan Bridge Special District, which would have accelerated the pace of gentrification in Chinatown. Mr. Chiu said it’s important to remember past battles, to educate the younger generation about Chinatown’s history and to stick together. If one tenant in your building has a problem, everyone in the building must unite and consider it their problem, too, Mr. Chiu said.
Residents had many questions about how the new rent law impacts them. In partnership with Manhattan Legal Services, we will be hosting a workshop on the new law. It will be held Oct. 5 from 1-3 p.m. at 108 Norfolk St. in Manhattan. Lawyers will be on hand to answer questions.
It was a full agenda on Saturday and a lot of important issues to discuss, but there was also some time to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. Residents enjoyed lunch and, of course, took home a gift: mooncakes in celebration of the holiday!