Why a Tenants Association?

Photo of Kirby Sommers' bedroom @143 West 69 Street where radiator leaked for 5 years.
Max (super_ installed a "broken" radiator). He put a rag in, said he'd be back. Never showed up again until the ceiling beneath my apartment collapsed.

The following is a copy of the original email sent to residents of 2020 Broadway and 143 West 69 Street in January when people began to ask "Why?"


Dear Neighbors:

Since I continue to receive emails regarding the purpose of our newly formed Tenants Association, I thought I would send this to everyone by means of an answer.

Personal info about myself:

I have lived at 143 West 69 Street since 1981.

Since that time I have been:

  1. Raped twice (as the result of broken front door locks and broken roof access
  2. Burglarized (same reasons as above)
  3. An intruder gained access (again through the roof – landlord negligence) and jumped onto my air conditioner, putting his fist through my bedroom window and accessing my apartment. I was held hostage, at knife point, for five days until I managed to escape.
The last incident mentioned above happened in the early 1990s.

From that time there have been a ton of other horrific things that have continued to happen as a result of continued landlord negligence.

The latest incident was my tripping over the bunched up carpet in the lobby when the window guys were replacing our windows on December 2nd and nearly crashing through the outer door (plate glass door). (A PREVENTABLE ACCIDENT AND FULLY THE FAULT OF A NEGLIGENT LANDLORD).

That was the incident that made me take action.

I went into full time research mode and since I am a renters’ advocate (and have, in the past advocated against the Red Cross on behalf of Hurricane Katrina survivors – getting the Red Cross to release $200 million dollars they were going to leave with + use the money instead to help Katrina survivors).

As I met with neighbors we began to share stories and almost everyone had a horror story, a lack of repair issue, a sexual harassment story; it was clear to me we needed to unit to ensure our collective voices were heard. It didn't stop at #143 or #2020 - I discovered the same pattern of abuse and neglect and health related breaches with other buildings owned by our landlord.

What is happening to you may be happening to your neighbor or to someone else who lives in a Cornfeld owned property. Coming forward means you are helping not only yourself but others, too.
One voice is never heard. Many voices are. Our landlord is legally required to keep us (tenants) safe. It is the landlords’ most basic legal obligation when we sign a lease. Not merely to keep a roof over our heads, not merely to collect rent money, but to keep us safe.

We don’t have safety.

Many of us have come together as a group to ensure our landlord provides an environment that is not hazardous to our personal safety or our health in every way.

I hope this answers everyone’s questions re: our reasons for creating a Tenants Association.

Should you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Yours truly,

Kirby Sommers