Tenants, environmental activists and community members held a protest outside state Senator Kevin Parker’s house in Flatbush on Tuesday, calling him out for withdrawing his support for a pro-tenant bill and pushing legislation they say would weaken New York’s accounting method for greenhouse gas emissions.
Parker represents Senate District 21, which includes the neighborhoods from Little Haiti and Marine Park and Kensingnton to Bergen Beach. It is the district with the seventh-highest rate of evictions in New York State, according to data from Cornell University, and 53% of its population is Black.
In 2021, Parker withdrew his cosponsorship of the Good Cause Eviction bill, which would protect tenants from excessive rent increases and unjust evictions. Good Cause would prevent landlords from evicting tenants without a designated cause like failure to pay rent or creating a nuisance, and would require landlords to offer automatic lease renewals. Advocates hoped the legislation would be included in this year’s state budget, which has yet to be finalized.
“Senator Kevin Parker is doing absolutely nothing for this community, which needs to be able to stay in their homes,” said East Flatbush resident and community organizer David Alexis, who is planning on challenging Parker again in the next election. “That’s to strengthen rent protection and push for more investment in housing that we need that’s affordable, that’s low income, that allows for us to stay here.”
Addressing the state’s growing housing crisis with tenant protections is at the top of Albany’s priority list as drawn-out budget negotiations move forward. Both the Senate and Assembly included support for Good Cause and the Housing Access Voucher Program in their one-house budget proposals, but they need Governor Kathy Hochul to officially sign them into law. Hochul’s ten-year housing plan lacks tenant protections in the executive budget, but focuses instead on boosting housing production.
Protestors accused Parker of ignoring the needs of his district, where gentrification has pushed out long-standing residents.
“The working class in the city and the state are leaving because the cost of living is going up,” said Chris Paesano, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. “Canvassing here is the easiest thing we have ever done. It is not difficult to talk to our neighbors and have them tell us, ‘Yeah, that sounds great, we want to raise taxes on the rich, we want to pass this things that we need and we want our elected officials, people who represent us in Albany, to follow through on that.'”
Parker did not respond to a request for comment.
The rally also a bill Parker, the chair of the Senate’s Energy and Telecommunications Committee, introduced in the Albany that would change the way the state measures methane emissions — a bill opponents say favors the fossil fuel industry, and would likely allow more greenhouse gas usage for a longer period of time than is currently planned under New York’s climate law.
Methane is far more damaging to the planet and to human health than carbon, trapping eighty times more heat and warming the world at a much faster rate. It accounts for more than a third of global warming and contributes significantly to air pollution, and causes asthma and other health conditions. The governor walked back the proposal after an outcry from activists.
“We want climate justice. We want to pass the bill on the Build Public Renewables Act with all the prohibitions in it that the governor and other people have tried to strip out so that it actually combats climate change,” said Paesano.
The Build Public Renewables Act would the New York power authority to provide only renewable energy and power to customers and to be the only energy provider to all state-owned and municipal properties. Progressive lawmakers and advocates have loudly supported the proposal in their efforts to fight climate change and meet the state’s emission-reduction goals.
“Instead of trying to gut New York’s climate law, Senator Parker should focus on passing legislation that will save money and the climate, while creating good jobs, preventing fracking, and improving air quality,” said Eric Weltman, a Brooklyn-based senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Climate action is the key to lower energy bills. The most effective way for Parker to deliver energy savings to New Yorkers is ending our costly reliance on fossil fuels. That means championing passage of the All-Electric Building Act and the Build Public Renewables Act – with no industry-backed delays or loopholes – in the budget.”