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. Put a rag in, said he'd be back. Never showed up again.


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?"

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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 me:

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 rolled 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 literally broke my back.

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).

In any event, as I began my research I came across some information regarding asbestos in our buildings. Air-borne while they were replacing the windows, renovating the lobbies and “upgrading” individual apartments.

One thing continued to lead to another and to my horror and dismay I discovered a long list of landlord related negligence and other health breaches that affect every single person who is a tenant of this particular landlord. (Possibly in every one of their buildings).

In December I held an informal meeting with some of the people in my building. I listened to their own concerns for their safety and well-being.

Everyone had a horror story. Some of the stories I have heard since are too painful to write here in this email.

It became evident we needed to come together as a group to ensure our continued safety and frankly, the safety of our lives.

One voice is never heard. Many voices are. Our landlord needs to keep us 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
212.787.8726