Brooklyn, NY: ALTHEA MILLER

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Dear Governor Cuomo,

My name is Althea Miller. I moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn from Jamaica eight years ago. When I first arrived in Brooklyn, I was shocked. People live in these tiny apartments? I missed my house, and I missed the grass.

But now, Flatbush is my home. I’m raising my son and my granddaughter in my rent stabilized apartment on Albermarle Road. I work at a fast food restaurant, and I was so proud when we won a higher minimum wage for all of New York State.

Last year, the unthinkable happened. My sister died. My niece moved to Long Island. My landlord showed up at my door — I thought to offer condolences — but no. He said: It’s time to get out.

My landlord told me that I didn’t have succession rights to my apartment. I never put my name on the lease, because I was waiting for immigration papers to come though, but it didn’t matter. He said if he got me out, he could raise the rents. Flatbush is now the center of gentrification in Brooklyn. He wanted me to go.

I started learning my rights. I learned about the 20% vacancy bonus landlords get when someone moved out. I learned about the individual apartment improvement increases that landlords get when they convert 1 bedrooms into 2 bedrooms, or “renovate” rent stabilized apartments.

I’m fighting back. I’m going to court. I organized a tenant association to fix things in my building, and to change the laws that work for landlords, not tenants. But I’m scared. I’m trying to prepare my son for the fact we might soon be homeless. He asks me “where are we going to go?” He’s 8. I don’t know what I will tell him.

Weak rent regulations are driving me out of my home. If it weren’t for the vacancy bonus, I’d be able to stay. But my landlord wants one thing: profit. I’m afraid if nothing changes, he will get it — and I’ll be on the street.

Governor Cuomo — you need to stand with us to end the vacancy bonus, and eliminate individual apartment increases. It’s time to stop standing with the real estate industry, and side with the tenants.