Tenant Organizing Manual
Since its founding in 1894, LENOX HILL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION (LHNA) has had a strong commitment to working with and advocating for its neighbors to resolve problems of common concern. As early as the 1950's, LHNA's community began to feel the effects of "gentrification." In the twenty years that followed, the rampant demolition and gut renovations of structurally sound low-rise buildings forced the relocation of more than 75,000 low and middle income families and individuals. Perhaps to an even greater extent today, the lack of decent, affordable housing continues not only in this community, but throughout the City. The loss of affordable housing units and the lack of a governmental or private commitment to create new affordable housing makes it imperative for all communities to work together to preserve the existing housing stock. It is to assist in such efforts that this manual was written.
LENOX HILL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION believes that organizing a tenants' association is the most effective way to encourage a building owner to improve services, make building repairs and maintain the building. Although laws and rent regulations specify the responsibilities of a building owner, some owners do not uphold them consistently.
The unified voice of many tenants is much more powerful than the voice of just one, and in fact, a tenants' association can "balance the power" (whether perceived or real) of the owner with that of the tenants. By organizing, tenants can regain the rights that are justly theirs and restore equality and fair play. Owners can be made more responsive and can be encouraged to remain that way as long as the tenants' association remains strong. It takes persistence and it takes vigilance. But, it works!
- No landlord shall interfere with the right of a tenant to form, join or participate in the lawful activities of any group, committee or other organization formed to protect the rights of tenants; nor shall any landlord harass, punish, penalize, diminish, or withhold any right, benefit or privilege of a tenant under his tenancy for exercising such right.
- Tenants' groups, committees or other tenants' associations shall have the right to meet in any location on the premises which is devoted to the common use of all tenants in a peaceful manner, at reasonable hours, and without obstructing access to the premises or facilities. No landlord shall deny such right.
REAL PROPERTY LAW - Article 7, Section 230
Ref: McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated,
Book 49, Reel Property Law; Cumulative Annual Pocket Part
Staff members of LHNA's Division of Community Services designed and wrote this manual based on actual tenant organizing and advocacy experiences. We ask that you use the manual as a GUIDE in helping your building to organize and maintain a strong, unified tenants association and to negotiate, or, if necessary, pressure the owner to respond to your associations legitimate demands. It is written in a systematic manner offering practical and progressive strategies that can be initiated by your association to effectively resolve your building's problems. As importantly, we hope that this manual will help your association to think; through and plan the group's activities based on what the majority of the tenants are willing and able to do.
Community organizers from Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association can help you organize, develop appropriate plans of action and answer any questions you may have on the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and owners. For assistance, call (212) 744-5022.
We hope this manual will help you with your organizing efforts and we wish you great success.
Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association is a not-for-profit settlement house providing programs and social services to over 20.000 people per year of all ages who live, work or go to school on Manhattan's Upper East Side: East 59th to East 96th Streets, Fifth Avenue to the East River:
LHNA's COMMUNITY SERVICES DIVISION through the NIAC: NEIGHBORHOOD INFORMATION & ACTION CENTER provides one-stop information, referral, short-term counseling and advocacy services to individuals of all ages on landlord/tenant problems, all entitlements, legal services, health and mental health services, family violence. alcohol and substance abuse. Its Health and Nursing Services provide community health education, nursing assessments and consultations and its Volunteer Services coordinates the recruitment of more than 600 volunteers serving all of LHNA's programs. The Homeless are serviced through a 365 day/year Shelter for Homeless Women and by a Mental Health Street Outreach Team. A main focus of this Division is its Community Organizing Programs whereby technical assistance is given to help residents organize tenant and block associations, community based self-help groups, and community crime prevention programs.
Through LHNA's OLDER ADULT SERVICES Project SCOPE provides frail elderly with comprehensive home care services including case management, protective services, shopping, laundry, etc. For the more ambulatory older adult, its Senior Citizen Services Center operates six days per week offering a hot lunch daily, an employment program, and a broad variety of recreational, educational and social service programs. The Caring Neighbor, Inc. (LHNA affiliate) provides home attendant services up to 24 hours per day to Medicaid eligible elderly and disabled individuals.
LHNA's YOUTH, ADULT & FAMILY SERVICES provide a Head Start Program and year round Day Care Services for 3 to 5 year olds: for 6 - 12 year olds an After School Program, Summer Day Camp and Sleep-Away Camp in Bantam, Connecticut; a Teen Program for 11 to 17 year olds providing recreational, educational, employment and camping services. Its Adult Program offers recreational and educational services as well as self-help groups, for single parents, for adult children of the frail elderly. etc. Members of all ages have available to them the use of LHNA's gymnasium, woodshop, gameroom, swimming pool and fitness center.