Processed in 2015 by Stephanie Clowe, Jon Palmer, & Melissa McMullen.
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The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
All items in the New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition Collection were acquired by the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, 2015. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the NYSTNC).
The New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition traces its beginnings back to a weekend meeting in August 1972 at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Individuals from Buffalo, Albany, New York City, and places in between came to discuss a statewide tenant organization. This summer meeting came in the wake of two major setbacks: the state government approval of vacancy decontrol and, a botched attempt to create a statewide tenants organization. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller unleashed a relentless onslaught to achieve rent decontrol and in May 1971 his persistence paid off when the exhausted State Senate acquiesced and passed the measure by a one vote margin. The State Tenants Organization quickly mobilized but a January 1972 meeting dissolved into factional bickering.
January 1973 marked the beginning of weekly visits to Albany to lobby both houses of the Legislature and the Governor's office, all of which were Republican-controlled. The lobbyists navigated through a maze of construction equipment scattered around the developing Empire State Plaza and the freshly minted Legislative Office Building and marched into legislators' offices driven to help repeal vacancy decontrol. Their commitment and recalcitrance in the face of equally obstinate legislatures hastened the passage of a bill that allowed public housing tenants to elect representatives to local housing authority boards. The lobbyists' fervor helped them develop the Warranty of Habitability. The crux of this concept is that rent is conditional on the landlord's obligation to maintain their rent units at a habitable standard. Tenants and Senator Douglas Barclay, Republican of Syracuse, rejected an adulterated version of the Warranty Bill in late 1974. But by 1975 the Democrats controlled the Assembly and member Frank Barbaro, Democrat of Brooklyn, sponsored the bill. The Coalition reached out to a vast network of civic organizations and tenant associations for support in lobbying for the Barclay-Barbaro bill and it Governor Carey eventually signed the Warranty of Habitability into law.
In 1973 the group developed an identity and called themselves the New York State Tenants Legislative Coalition. The first year's budget was a modest $3,000 generated from local organizations, but it allowed for the development of letterhead and a growing mailing list.
Members solidified their organization in December of 1974 when forty delegates from tenant and community organizations from Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Westchester County, Nassau County, and New York City convened in Manhattan and adopted by-laws. They changed their name to the New York State Tenants Coalition and the first statewide meeting occurred in February 1975 less than five miles north of Albany in Glenmont, NY. At this inaugural membership meeting, Michael McKee was elected chairperson and Barbara Chocky of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Maria Markovics were elected downstate and upstate vice chairpersons. Five statewide membership meetings in 1975 and 1976 followed the inaugural meeting. The December 1976 meeting saw members vote to change the organization's name to the New York State Tenant and Neighborhood Coalition.
The Coalition's lobbying efforts paid great dividends in 1974 when four pro-tenant bills became law. Written by Don Wardle and sponsored by the late Senator Walter Langley, Republican of Albany, the Langley Law requires election of two tenants to the board of each local Housing Authority outside New York City. Another victory involved the Preservation of Sound Housing Act, which created obstacles for developers interested in razing rent controlled apartments to build luxury housing.
A Cooperative/Condominium Fair Practices Act suppressed co-op and condo conversions by mandating that 35 percent of tenants purchase before non-purchasing tenants could be evicted. Also passed in 1974, the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) aided low-income elderly tenants by restricting the percentage of their income going to rents or real property taxes.
These new bills symbolized great measures of progress for tenant rights, but it was the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) that highlighted 1974 as a banner year for tenants and created an indelible impact on the landlord/tenant landscape for years to come. ETPA repealed vacancy decontrol for rent stabilized apartments and extended rent stabilization to Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland Counties. While Coalition members welcomed these parts of ETPA, they were disappointed with its other aspects that allowed landlords to seek market price for vacated rent controlled units before stabilizing the rent again.
The Coalition is the nation's oldest statewide housing organization and annual retreats have allowed people from different parts of the state to meet together. Also paramount to the Coalition's longevity has been the Tenants & Neighbors newsletter, which was first published in 1982.
The loss of the Peoples Housing Network weakened the Coalition's presence in upstate New York. Michael McKee served as executive director of the Community Training and Resource Center, which helped tenants groups in New York City. The upstate problem wasn't addressed until 1986 when the Coalition received financial support from the Campaign for Human Development (CHD) for an Upstate Tenant Organizing Project.
The CHD funds helped the Coalition rally forces in Syracuse and Rochester. The Coalition fought to preserve Mitchell-Lama housing by teaming up with the Mitchell-Lana Residents Coalition. This team effort helped prevent owners of moderate-income housing built from the 1950s to the early 1970s, the main years of the Mitchell-Lama project, from exercising their twenty year buy out option. In addition to Mitchell-Lama housing, by the late 1980s low income federally assisted housing developments built under Section 236, Section 8 were subject to buy outs by the owners. The Coalition's forces in Syracuse and Rochester influenced a bill Congress passed in 1990. For the Coalition, this demonstrated the importance of lobbying the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (USHD).
The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition (NYSTNC) records documents the workings of tenant activists in New York State. The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition is more commonly referred to as Tenants & Neighbors. The collection documents the day to day activities of the coalition along with the legislative and lobbying effort that the coalition was involved with.
The bulk of the collection revolves around the legislative materials that the Tenants & Neighbors fought in aid of Tenant rights and protection under New York State and federal law. The collection focuses on rent regulation and laws. Many of the effort of the coalition were to aid the focus of the renters' rights through protest and grassroots activism. Tenants & Neighbors worked closely with other rent activists.
The administrative files series includes materials belonging to many key members of the coalition such as Michael McKee, William Rowen, and Jim Garst. They are often featured in the News Clippings series providing Op Ed pieces and leading protests. The audio visual materials series contains videotapes of The Tenants & Neighbors Show from the late 1980s to 2001, however we do not have a complete run of the show that aired.
The collection is organized into the following series: Series 1: Administrative Files ( 1972-2002), Series 2: New York State Housing Authorities (1972-2000), Series 3: Legislative Files (1974-1999), Series 4: Tenant Organizations & Campaigns (1974-2002), Series 5: Communications (1973-2002), Series 6: Audio Visual Materials (1987-2002), Series 7: National Housing Issues (1977-2001), and Series 8: News Clippings (1970-2001).
The Administrative Files series is arranged chronologically.
The Administrative Files series consists of organizational records, which document the activities of the Board of Directors. These include documents, by-laws and changes, annual reports to the executive committee. Annual financial reports, meeting minutes and materials relating to the annual retreat of the Executive Committee are found in this series. Many files pertaining to key members of Tenants & Neighbors such as Michael McKee, William Rowen, and James Garst are represented in the administrative files series.
The New York State Housing Authorities series is arranged chronologically.
The New York State Housing Authorities series contains materials relating to the interactions with other New York State organizations relating to Housing within the state. The organizations that are represented in this series are the Rent Guidelines Board, Rent Stabilization Association, and the New York City Department of Housing and Community Renewal, among others. The City of New York and the Conciliatory and Appeals Board files are also represented within this series.
The Legislative series is arranged chronolgically.
The legislative series includes bill jackets, legislative memorandums, State Assembly and Senate vote records, correspondence regarding the legislation. The Tenants & Neighbors' legislative committee's related materials such as agendas, minutes, memoranda are represented in this series. Mitchell-Lama council legislation can be found in the legislative series.
The Tenant Organizations & Campaigns series is arranged chronologically.
The Tenant Organizations and Campaigns series focuses on tenant organizations outside of New York State, however some New York State campaigns are also kept in this series. Smaller renter rights organizations are also represented here.
The Communications series is arranged chronologically.
This series includes information disseminated to New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition to New York City tenants in the form of fliers, brochures, leaflets, mailings, legal size posters, etc. The goal of these announcements is to galvanize tenants into a cohesive block that can apply pressure to the legislature by picketing, writing in letters, signing petitions, attending meetings, etc. Other files include NYSTNC Fact Sheets, The files have been arranged chronologically as it's important to note the issues and legislation NYSTNC fought for according to the particular year and the events/bills related to that year.
The Audio Visual Materials series is arranged chronologically.
The Audio Visual Materials series contains videotapes with the Tenants and Neighbors Show, NAHT Conferences and other rallies/picketing and politician speeches. Eight U-Matic tapes of the Tenants & Neighbors show is also included within this series.
The National Housing Issues series is arranged chronologically.
The National Housing Issues series focuses on renters' issues from a national perspective. Much of the materials come from the National Alliance of HUD Tenants as well as the Low Income Housing Information Service.
The News Clippings series is arranged chronologically.
The News Clippings series represents Tenants & Neighbors voice in the press. Much of it is Op Ed pieces written by Michael McKee. The bulk of the materials is from 1997, focusing on rent decontrol. Various rent protest and rallies that Tenants & Neighbors participated in or organized are also found in this series.