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Tenants and Neighbors is a statewide coalition of New York's tenants and tenant associations that fight for tenants' rights and affordable housing for all people. The origins of Tenants and Neighbors dates to a meeting of tenant and housing activists from across the state in August 1972 at St. Rose College in Albany, N.Y. By December 1974, a formal organization was developed by housing and tenant activists across the state that drew up by-laws and created the original name as the New York Tenants Coalition. The first statewide membership meeting was held in February 1975. In 1995, the organization changed its name to New York State Tenants and Neighbors. The collection includes: minutes, annual reports, newsletter and other publications, legislative and organizational memoranda, press releases, clippings, video and press coverage.
29.9 cubic ft.
English .
Preferred citation:

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition (NYSTNC) Records, 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 Records).


Scope and Content:

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.

Biographical / Historical:

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).

Acquisition information:
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 from Michael McKee of New York State Tenants Neighbors Coalition in 2005.
Processing information:

Processed in 2015 by Stephanie Clowe, Jon Palmer, & Melissa McMullen.


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).

Physical location:
The materials are located onsite in the department.



Using These Materials

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Access to this record group is unrestricted.


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.


Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, The New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition (NYSTNC) Records, 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 Records).

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