Jan. 23, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
Nearly 40 tenants who were notified in November that they were being evicted from an Astoria dormitory-style building are starting to fight back.
The tenants who live at the New York School of Urban Ministry, located at 31-65 46th Street, were notified around Thanksgiving that they would have to move out of their $400 to $500 per-month rooms by December 31.
The deadline has been extended until the end of January.
NYSUM wants to get rid of the tenants so it can lease the space to an operator that plans to set up a homeless shelter.
While about 12 residents have already moved out, most of the remaining tenants are planning to fight back with the help of the Legal Aid Society.
“We are close to filing a lawsuit against the New York School of Urban Ministry,” said Sateesh Nori, the attorney in charge of the Queens Branch of the Legal Aid Society.
The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed later this month, aims to prevent NYSUM from kicking them out.
Several local politicians have also gotten involved and have been in talks with the leaders of NYSUM.
NYSUM claims that it is not financially feasible to operate the building in its present dorm-style state. It claims it needs the additional funds that will come when it rents the building to the new operator.
Some of the tenants are concerned that by going into battle with NYSUM they might get tangled up in a legal dispute that could hamper their ability to find housing elsewhere. They fear that prospective landlords will find out about the dispute and then deny them housing.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, upon learning of these fears, plans to introduce legislation that would stop landlords from blacklisting tenants who have been involved in legal disputes with their landlords.
One of the primary concerns NYSUM residents expressed, according to Gianaris, was that they would be blacklisted and unable to find housing in the future if they stood up for their rights as tenants in court, whether they won or lost.
The blacklisting legislation would make it illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to tenants because of their previous involvement in a tenant-landlord dispute.
It would also give the affected tenant the ability to file a complaint through the state division of human rights that could result in civil damages, according to Gianaris’ office.
“Too many residents get the short end of the stick simply by asserting their legal rights. We cannot allow unscrupulous landlords to discriminate against tenants who are simply fighting to keep a roof over their heads,” Gianaris said in a statement.