Look, Tenants’ Rights Activism Really Works

February 11, 2013 | Andy Cush

A group of tenants in a Bronx apartment complex with some truly deplorable conditions–rats, nonworking appliances, no hot water–decided to strike back against their shitty landlord recently, and have reaped the benefits. Under a new program called First Look, which allows community-minded groups to have the first bid on struggling residential buildings, a coalition of groups including the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association bought the College Avenue complex–and are making it livable. “It feels like winning the Mega Millions,” said Dominga Sanchez. “Since the new owners came, the heat hasn’t stopped and they’re coming to fix everything. I’ve lived an experience in this apartment that no one should have to.”

The tenants were able to attract the attention of the Banana Kelly group by publicly protesting their landlord and demanding any new buyers provide livable conditions. “We’re breaking the vicious cycle that sees troubled buildings endlessly bought, sold and then left to deteriorate,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a supporter of the program. “What these tenants have accomplished is extraordinary, and it’s a model we need to replicate: pressure from within and resources from without.”

(Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr)