Displacement is Happening Here and Now – One East Side Renter Tells Her Story

Photo is not of the building or property management company referenced in the story. 

This story was shared with us by a renter who has been a part of the Renter Advisory Council. She and her neighbors were recently displaced from their building on the Greater East Side after a new owner took over and issued a rent spike. For her protection, she has asked to remain anonymous. The story below is from a resident from our neighborhood and may not reflect any action or opinion of the Greater East Side/D2 Community Council Board of Directors.

We intend to share more stories of our residents in the future here, on social media and in our e-newsletter. If you would like to submit your story, please email it to the office at greatereastsided2@outlook.com.

Up until two months ago, I lived in an apartment building on the East Side. In it were fourteen homes — and fourteen different households who cared for each other deeply. If someone needed an aspirin or a ride to the hospital, we knew we could count on each other. It was home and it was a community. We’d all lived there anywhere between seven and 42 years — I myself was there for a decade and a half — before a new landlord bought the building, and everything changed.

“The last guy never charged you enough. I’m gonna raise the rent.” These were the first words out of my new landlord’s mouth. Not “hello,” not an introduction — a threat. He was cagey about the amount, and the goal post constantly shifted. First, he said he’d raise rent to $1375, but he told different tenants different numbers. On September 1st, I got written notice that my rent would increase from $900 to $1475 — a 66% spike.

We were a building made up mostly of seniors on fixed incomes. Suddenly, we were supposed to find an additional $575 lying around, each month, just to pay for the same place and fewer services than we previously had.

The eviction moratorium prevented him from legally evicting us — but he found other ways to intimidate. One by one, he’d corner us: “So, have you found a place to move?” But where were we supposed to go? 55 and over housing as far out as the suburbs have waitlists into the dozens.

Since our new landlord couldn’t immediately evict us or raise our rent, he decided he’d just make our lives as difficult as he could. Assigned parking spots were no longer guaranteed. “Just park next to the building,” he told us. A permit sticker system and a towing service were briefly promised, but never materialized. Eventually everyone started parking on the street.

Even trash removal became an opportunity to bully us. After our building’s dumpsters were removed, someone reached out to the City to see where they’d gone. We learned that our new landlord had simply stopped paying for the garbage service. We were left without trash collection for almost two weeks. He was livid that we’d called the City.

When he finally got around to replacing our dumpster — only after we complained — the one he got was so small it would fill up in days. One of my neighbors, a young mother, had to start keeping dirty diapers in her car.

But that isn’t even the half of it. He cut down our beloved trees. He fired the caretaker who’d lived there for over two decades and didn’t even tell her — he just left it to us. He’d get angry when we’d ask for repairs.

I’m not naïve. I’m sure he’s not the only landlord that treats people this way.

Now, only one or two of the original households are left in our old home. He moved in tenants with Section 8 vouchers who had nowhere else to go — he was giddy to cash in on low-income renters and government subsidies. Most of us who were displaced didn’t qualify for assistance. We were left with zero options.

So, am I voting YES for rent stabilization? You bet I am. Our new landlord raised our rent 66%! Why was he allowed to do that? He got all the money and we — the tenants who loved and cared for the building, paid the mortgage and then some — got screwed. My monthly Social Security check sure didn’t go up 66%.

We had to be responsible tenants — why didn’t he have to be a responsible owner? More importantly, why would anyone want to treat other people like that? Why would anyone want to get rich off other people’s suffering? There’s got to be a limit on rent increases. It’s too late for me and my neighbors, but not for other renters. This is why I am supporting the rent stabilization ordinance.