On LI, Hispanic Tenants Afraid to Denounce Bad Landlords

While African Americans demand repairs in their homes, Latino tenants are afraid to claim their rights. (Photo via Noticia Long Island)

Landlords have been abusing tenants for years by charging high rents without offering adequate housing conditions. This housing crisis is more notorious during a harsh winter season like the one we’re experiencing right now, in which basic services such heating and insulation become critical.

But what happens when the same tenants suffering those problems don’t report them? Well, their dismal living condition will remain the same, with no solution in sight.

This is what has been happening in Hempstead, where Hispanic tenants are afraid of reporting abuses or lack of services in their homes. Also, Latinos don’t usually attend community meetings where they are told of their rights as tenants. This stands in contrast with members of the African American community in the area, who do express their discontent and seek help.

For this, and other compelling reasons, a new coalition has been formed: Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance aims to help tenants know their rights and to create strong laws that landlords can’t beat.

Calamitous state of an apartment in Columbia Street, Hempstead. (Photo via Noticia Long Island)

“We are currently experiencing a major housing crisis. The person who has the most power to help us is New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He is in his second term and so far he hasn’t done anything for tenants,” said Lucas Sánchez, a member of the coalition.

“According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there has been a 36.4 percent increase in homelessness since 2010. It is expected that by 2020 New York will have 100,000 more people without a home. Thousands are paying more than what they earn on an apartment,” said Sánchez, who recently organized workshops in Hempstead where many African-American tenants participated, but where Hispanics were conspicuous by their absence.

Latinos in fear

“I’m working hard for the community, I’m currently looking at the translations from English to Spanish because I want Hispanics to get information and to know their rights (…),” said trustee Gladys Rodriguez, who attended the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance meeting along with Hempstead Mayor Don Ryan.

“It is important that the Hispanic community participate in those meetings. Many of the problems African Americans suffer, Hispanics are going through as well. What happens is, some of them are afraid to go out and protest because they broke rules: Sometimes the apartments are overcrowded, or they are afraid of other things,” said Rodriguez.

According to some of those Latino tenants, another reason why they prefer to remain anonymous and not to make complaints is because they don’t have legal status in the country, or lack a social security card, or they have a very limited level of English. (…)

As tenant rights is a very broad subject, there have been many talks in different Hempstead venues to educate the community, and many African Americans have taken the opportunity to make their demands known.

For example, at a meeting Denita M. Manson, 33, who qualifies for Section 8 benefits, said that she can’t obtain the benefits she is entitled to because her landlord does not accept this program that helps pay the rent for low-income residents, seniors, disabled and domestic violence victims.

“I am going to lose my Section 8 benefits during the month of February. I went to a building in Floral Park in which the landlord participates in the program but I’m not accepted because of the color of my skin, and here in Hempstead I can’t find a place,” said Manson.

For her part, Elise Latson, 57, who lives at 40 W Columbia St., is a disabled woman who’s partially blind. Although she is protected by Section 8, she lives in inhuman conditions.

“I’ve been asking for repairs in my apartment for eight years. My bathroom is in ruins and the walls need painting. I asked my ‘super’ and he told me he would only fix my apartment if I pay, or if the building owner pays for the repairs,” complained Latson.

To confront this problem, coalition member Benjamin Britton said: “We sent emails to the Section 8 inspector, who responded that he would be examining the apartment next week. Other emails were sent to Stephen J. Tesoriero, who’s the building inspector, and legislator of District 2 Siela A. Bynoe. All of these people are in charge of the case.”

It should be noted that tenants in this building on Columbia Street have complained about the constant eviction notices they receive. Thern Shiuers, 53, was illegally evicted from her apartment even though a judge had allowed her to stay until a new court appointment.


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