NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Hundreds of people marched Wednesday evening through the streets of New Haven in support of a tenant union pushing back against Ocean Management.
The Blake Street Tenant Union said members were negotiating rent increases with Ocean Management when 16 residents at the Elizabeth Apartments on Blake Street were given “notices to quit,” a legal paper saying the tenant must move out by Sept. 1 or face eviction.
New Haven high school teacher Jessica Stamp is one of them. Stamp said she called the city to clean up debris scattered all over the property, and was shocked when she received a notice. After she welcomed students back for the first day of school, she came to New Haven City Hall to protest.
“They’re reckless with us,” she said. “They don’t treat us with any kind of respect, they act like we’ll just figure everything out on our own when we can’t.”
Elizabeth Apartment tenants, renters with the Connecticut Tenants Union and others gathered on the steps of city hall to support the 16 residents facing eviction.
“Sixteen people’s lives who were put in limbo all of a sudden because they had the audacity to say, ‘You know what? These are our homes, and we want to stay here and we want to stay in this community and we don’t want to be forced out,'” said Luke Melonakos-Harrison, an organizer with the Connecticut Tenants Union.
Their concerns did not fall on deaf ears. New Haven aldermen, state legislators and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) attended the rally.
“This is about a landlord retaliating against people who are asserting their legal rights,” Blumenthal said. “That is the worst kind of exploitation.”
In response for comment, the Ocean Management property manager stood by their previous statement saying, “Rents for existing tenants have not increased since before covid despite sharp inflation, and are substantially below market rents. We met in good faith 3 times with the representatives in an attempt to accommodate, and even expressed our intention to make exceptions in some cases with specific financial needs.”
Ocean Management did not address the evictions in the statement.
The group marched four blocks from city hall to Ocean Management’s Whitney Avenue offices. There, the 16 tenants taped eviction notices of their own to the front doors, saying they’re not giving up.
Renters demanded the company take back the eviction notices, promise to not do it again and return to the negotiating table.
“We are sending a message to the landlords of this state that we do not tolerate retaliation and that everybody has the right to be a part of a tenant union,” said Hannah Srajer, president of the Connecticut Tenants Union.
The Blake Street Tenants Union filed an injunction with New Haven’s Housing Court. Ocean Management is scheduled to appear for a hearing on Sept. 12. The tenants plan to stay in their apartments.