By Herb Boyd
Managing Editor, The Black World Today
Nov. 26, 2004 -- New York -- Prompted by the furor surrounding the eviction of a local senior citizen, Councilmembers Charles Barron and Latisha James have introduced a bill that addresses the unwarranted evictions of the elderly.
The bill, named in honor of veteran activist Florence Rice, whose battle with landlords sparked a recent series of rallies and demonstrations, is slated to amend the administrative code of the city of New York as it pertains to eviction of elderly tenants.
“With this bill, landlords will no longer be allowed to evict our senior citizens without recourse,” Barron told a group of supporters gathered at the steps of City Hall Tuesday afternoon. “Landlords now must go through the Housing Preservation and Development Department before any action can be taken.”
Among the bills’ stipulations are a notification requirement; provision of tenant assistance for eligible heads of households; reporting of action by the commission on human rights; and fines for anyone who violates the law. “This law is named in tribute to Florence Rice who has been unfazed by the most daunting challenges from Con-Ed and New York Telephone,” reads the proclamation given to Rice, and which will be officially conducted in early December in Council Chambers, said Paul Washington, Barron’s chief of staff.
Union leader Brenda Stokely and labor activist James Haughton were among those at the event to congratulate Rice. “Years ago, when they kicked Florence out of the garment union, she told them to drop dead,” recalled Haughton. “Legislation and bills are fine, but what we need is a revolution.”
“This is an important piece of legislation,” Stokely said, “and it comes at a time when they are disregarding working people. “I applaud the courage of the councilmembers for introducing this bill.”
Councilwoman James’ remarks occurred just as Mayor Bloomberg was entering City Hall. “Move this bill, Mr. Mayor, move this bill!” she called to him. The mayor came over and without committing himself one way or the other, offered a few words of praise for Ms. Rice.
“I am glad all of this happened to me,” Rice said, standing next to Beverly Griggsby, who has been battling so tirelessly on her behalf in court and elsewhere. “If it hadn’t happened to me we wouldn’t be standing here today. Landlords are saying they don’t need us anymore, so they can throw seniors into the streets whenever they want to. But we must join together and fight back. It’s not about money or color, it’s about education.”
There are several steps before the bill becomes law, Washington explained, but he was optimistic that it will pass and eventually provide protection for the elderly who at the moment have little recourse but to wage one-sided battles against landlords in courts where many of Rice’s supporters believe are no-win situations.
Paul Washington, chief of staff for Councilman Charles Barron (next to him), reads a Council Proclamation in tribute to Florence Rice (next to Barron) on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan. Photo by Herb Boyd