Harlem residents gathered outside President Clinton's office yesterday to protest against the former president as a symbol of Harlem's gentrification and the displacement of its residents.
The Harlem Tenants Council hosted the protest at 125th Street between Lenox and Park avenues that was attended by about 40 mostly elderly, African-American residents of the area. A HTC co-founder, Nellie Bailey, said the primary goal of the protest was to draw attention to what she calls a "housing crisis in Harlem," due in part to displacement because of price increases by landlords and evictions.
"We're hoping to have a dialogue with a president of enormous influence," Ms. Bailey said, "so he can understand the concerns of Harlem tenants," including the lack of a comprehensive, beneficial housing policy and legal services. A Clinton Foundation spokesman, Jay Carson, declined to comment on the protest.
The president of the Savoy Park Tenants Association, Valerie Orridge, said residents in her community generally
face two problems. Ever since Governor Pataki signed a law in 2003 that gave landlords the right to demand standard rent from tenants used to paying preferential rent ó an amount lower than the standard price ó landlords have demanded prices that tenants can't afford, she said. "There's a substantial difference between the two, like $300 or $400," Ms. Orridge said.
The other problem involves primary tenancy."Landlords allege that tenants don't live in their apartments and that they have other properties," she said. The New York City Rent Guidelines Board stipulates that tenants must live 183 days out of the year in their primary residences.
The Greater Harlem Real Estate Board reported that New York City's rent stabilization rate last month rose to 4.5% from 2.75% for a one-year lease and to 7.5% from 5.5% for a two-year lease. Belinda M'Baye, a broker for Harlem Homes Realty, said that fair market rentals in Harlem are also going up. "On average, rental prices for a one-bedroom apartment have increased from $800 in 2000 to $1,400 in 2006." She added that once rent surpasses $2,000 a month, the lease becomes destabilized. "More buildings are losing rent stabilization status. It's hard to say how many, there are so many buildings."