Almost a hundred New York City residents gathered today to rally against State Senator Pedro Espada outside what is said to be his District Office on the corner of Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the Bronx.
Community members held signs and shouted chants to ask Espada, whose last name means 'sword' in Spanish, to not stab them in the backs when it comes to affordable housing.
In Espada's district alone, 77,000 rent-regulated apartments face future destablization if the state decides not to repeal vacancy decontrol laws. (The legistlation to end vacancy decontrol is sitting on his desk as head of the Senate's housing committee and may not see the light of day now that the Senate is no longer functioning.)
Residents say Espada has not been sympathetic to their needs and now that Espada has sided with Republicans, residents say he has "sold out" his community.
"I am here in solidarity with the community of the Bronx and with Latinos, asking that Senator Espada be more responsible!" shouted Ramona Santana, a member of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.
Santana said leaders from her organization, as well as others, have repeatedly asked Espada to hold a community hearing on rent regulation issues in the Bronx, but it has never materialized. One instance that stood out in particular, she told reporters, was when Coalition members waited for over an hour in Albany to hear statements from Espada, but he never showed.
"He has refused to look in the face when we asked for a public hearing and now what he has given us is a sword in the back," said Santana.
At one point last month, during a press conference led by tenant advocates, Espada vowed to address all the rent regulation bills (including the repeal of rent decontrol) by the end of the legislative session, toward the end of June.
On Tuesday, Joseph Strasburg, the head of the leading landlord lobbying group, the Rent Stabilization Association, which is adamantly opposed to the repeal of rent decontrol or any other rent regulation laws, was delighted to hear
Despite what Espada claims on his Senate Web site, the spot for the protest, 400 E. Fordham Road, is not the location of his district office, at least not yet. He is the only New York lawmaker without a district office, or even a local phone number for residents to call.
In addition, the Bronx DA is looking into whehter Espada actually lives in the district he represents. Espada's real residency is said to instead be in Mamaroneck.
Esperanza Vasquez, who spoke to reporters at the curbside press conference, said the Bronx needs a representative who knows what is happening in the community and is accessible.
"We need a leader who actually does lead us," Vasquez said. "(A leader) who lives in the Bronx and thinks about Latinos, and thinks about the conditions in which we are living in our housing and thinks about the state our schools are in."
Shahid Van, a Bronx resident, said what Espada has been doing is not legal. "New York politics is in crisis," he said. "Espada is a corrupt politician--a textbook corrupt politician."