In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village. James had another commitment for this week. East Village photographer Stacie Joy compiled today's post.
Name: Wasim Lone
Occupation: Director of Housing Services, GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side)
Location: 171 Avenue B
Date: Oct. 10, 2 p.m.
Editor's note: We changed up from our usual Out and About format this week to highlight this critical neighborhood resource.
How has the neighborhood changed in the 30-plus years you’ve been at GOLES?
Working-class people, the poor, elderly, artists and writers are all struggling to find or keep affordable rents and are being replaced by corporate tenants paying high-dollar rents. There is a visible and tangible difference in the area. Stores and restaurants that used to serve the community have closed and big box and chain stores are replacing them. Now shops serve upper-income people.
After the 1997 vacancy decontrol legislation things changed rapidly in the area. A cultural shift changed the neighborhood. No longer is it the LES that used to exist. The flavor, the taste of the area has changed. There has been a tenant cleansing and the new order of the day is maximizing rents. We need to protect the tenants who are left, specifically the Section 8 housing members, public housing tenants, those with rent stabilization.
What does GOLES do for the neighborhood?
GOLES informs, educates, protects and counsels tenants on their rights. It offers legal representation in court, helps tenants form tenant associations and coalitions; for example, the Croman Coalition, which is very strong, and the newly forming Icon Realty Coalition, which is still in progress. People should contact GOLES if interested.
We fight for rules, regulations and laws, policy changes in city, state, and federal levels to protect tenants from predatory landlord behavior. The current mechanics to fight harassment are weak, very weak. In tenant harassment cases nine out of every 10 cases are not signed by judges. That’s 90 percent! Other courts are slow, like civil court or state Supreme Court, and most tenants do not have the resources to fight, especially against frivolous litigation and cases with no merit. They burn out the tenants.
How do you feel the new mayor and administration will affect East Village residents?
The new mayor’s changes remain to be seen. With the new administration there has been a climate change from the Bloomberg years. City Council is more progressive, and the new Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James are in the process of getting legislation, and calling out violators, like the new list of worst landlords...GOLES is pleased with its access to City Hall and the mayor.
But there haven't been any on-the-ground landlord changes.
What do you like best about the neighborhood? What do you like least?
I like the fact that what we provide is much needed. In fact it’s critical, so critical, to be there to help. Vestiges of the ’hood are still here: Section 8, public housing, rent-regulated tenants. And we are pleased to be here to help them.
Worst, I guess, are the challenges. We can put out fires but overall we are losing the war. Especially with state laws to decontrol rent, and the lack of enforcement at the local level. We see families and individuals getting evicted. Consistently.
GOLES facilitates processes to have tenants take leadership, like with the Croman Coalition, and coalitions regarding Marolda Properties and Icon Realty (forthcoming). The level of harassment the 9300 Realty Corp./Croman bring to bear on their tenants is shocking.
Despite having been doing this work for more than three decades, I am still saddened by the blatant disregard for tenants and their rights. It’s mind-blowing. The deprivation of services, frivolous lawsuits, lack of respect, and the greed of landlords to maximize profits at the expense of the people who make up the neighborhood is horrible.
Want to get involved? Visit GOLES for more information.