Margaret Groarke Discusses Tenant Rights at Commuter Services’ Housing Workshop

by Cathy Goodyear, Social Media Editor

On October 10th, Commuter Services and Outreach hosted a housing workshop for students who are currently living off campus or are considering moving off campus. The office of Commuter Services and Outreach identifies these students as “resi-commuters” and saw a demand for services that applied to them directly.

Marilyn Carter, the director of Commuter Services and Outreach, was originally informed of “Quality of Life” complaints about Manhattan College students that were filed by locals of the surrounding community through public safety and the police department. Carter took a tour of the buildings that had the most complaints and decided to put together the workshop in Kelly 4A with coffee, cookies, and knowledge on how to properly communicate with your landlord, proper off campus etiquette and how to safely look for off campus housing.

“The Housing workshop came out of this but more importantly resi-commuters are excited about being off campus and being independent. What they do not consider is that it takes a certain amount of maturity as well as knowing their rights as tenants. The workshop focused on students knowing their rights and what it takes to be a good neighbor. My plan is to do more of these workshops but eventually adding on a component of this office which will take on a greater stance as it relates to off campus housing,” said Carter.

Margaret Groarke, Associate Professor of Political Science who has a background in fair housing access and tenant rights was the key speaker for this event.

“I worked as a tenant organizer for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition for four years in the 1980’s and volunteer some of my time since then on housing issues. Everyone needs to know their rights, or their rights will not be respected,” said Groarke.

The NWBCCC is a community organization whose members fight against racial and economic injustices in the Bronx. Groarke is a long-time member and a current member of the Board of Directors. This past summer, Carter was discussing the issues arising with resi-commuters and how to address them and Groarke immediately volunteered to speak at the workshop.

“Students may feel mature and independent but the first thing their neighbors are going to say is that they are a MC student. We want a positive attitude when neighbors say ‘those MC students.’ Educating resi-commuters is the beginning to being a good neighbor and tenant. To follow up on resi-commuters we will be presenting an article in the Commuter Chronicle newsletter on the Neighborhood Relations Committee. If I am involved in something I want to know all of the major players so that we can all work together on the behalf of our commuter population,” said Carter.

The students who came to the workshop were given worksheets on their rights as tenants translated in both English and Spanish. The worksheets included your top ten rights as a tenant, rights as an immigrant tenant, understanding your rent registration history, and how to fight MCI rent increases. Students like Sophomore, Computer Engineering Major, Shou Oikawa found these worksheets especially helpful.

“There are people like me who have already moved (off campus), but for some, moving and renting might be a first time for them and knowing their rights is vital to have a smooth transition. I have known about the Major Capital Improvements, but through this workshop, as a tenant you still have the power to fight that. I found this workshop helpful to refresh my memories as a tenant, due to not needing them thus far, and this workshop has accomplished that. I recommend this workshop to others, especially those new to moving. The more rights you know, the more power you have as an individual, so it was very important to attend,” said Oikawa.

Along with the worksheets, Groarke provided other resources like searching your building and landlord through NYC Housing Preservation and Development at and where to find apartments for rent.

“The most important thing, educate yourself on your rights, and learn to complain effectively. Look on HPD online and see what complaints tenants are making from that building. Go by without the real estate agent or landlord rep. and ask some residents of the building how things are. After you move in, call DHCR (Division of Housing and Community Renewal) and get a rent history of your apartment, so you can find out if your rent is legal.”