Hands Across the East Village

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Lifelong resident John Marsh at yesterday's protest. Photo: Tim Murphy

Proving that everything eighties is hot again, an estimated 7,000 New York City tenants and tenant activists formed a human chain around the massive, recently sold, increasingly rent-destabilized Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village apartment complex last night — it's Hands Across the East Village! — to protest rising rents and demand state laws to protect affordable housing. But did they really, really ring that big old thing, which stretches from 14th to 23rd Streets and First Avenue to Avenue C?

“It wasn’t exactly even, but we did pretty much get a full encirclement, or circle, or whatever,” reported Chloe Tribich of New York Is Our Home, a new campaign that kicked off with the rally. “I ran around it.” Another organizer, Jennifer Flynn of New York City AIDS Housing Network, credited a few last-minute busloads of folks from Brooklyn ACORN with filling in the major gaps near 23rd and C. And the activist-y Rude Mechanical Orchestra provided marching-band accompaniment.

Everyone then marched toward Union Square, led by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and a gaggle of council members. (Other boldfacers on hand included Comptroller Bill Thompson, teachers' union chief Randi Weingarten, Central Labor Council titan Ed Ott, and state legislators Tom Duane and Richard Gottfried.) Organizers say the shindig came off without incident — apparently so, because, when contacted, the NYPD media desk said it hadn’t even heard about it. New York Is Our Home's next effort will come on June 5, when the gang is scheduled to descend on Albany to get the Senate to vote for a law protecting Mitchell-Lama affordable housing, according to organizer Julie Miles. (Another goal: stripping landlords of the ability to de-control units once they’re vacated.) “We’re at a boiling-point moment,” Miles said. “I think people are ready to make this issue a litmus test for officials.”

John Marsh certainly is. One of the 2,000-odd complex residents at yesterday’s ring-in, the data-security consultant has lived there all his life and suspects that Tishman-Speyer, the new owner, wants to separate him from his $1,250-a-month, rent-stabilized apartment. Now that even market-rate tenants are seeing 33 percent rent hikes, the whole complex is uniting against fear of a co-op conversion, he said. “It’s completely out of control,” he added, noting that, in a fantasy, he inhabits an 1800s converted townhouse in the West Village. Don't we all? —Tim Murphy