Immigrants Complain

Shirley, a ninth grader at Cambridge's Matignon High School, pointed to the cracked wall by her living room sofa, as she complained of the cold temperature in the room. Her mother, Marie, appeared in the doorway buttoning her coat, and slipped out of the door after delivering some last remarks in Haitian Creole.

Marie left her apartment to join 30 other rent control tenants of Market and Windsor Street apartment buildings in a march to protest the rising rents and deteriorating living conditions of their homes.

Marie Javier, speaking through her daughter's translation, said she joined the protest, like the other tenants, to improve the condition of her home. Javier also spoke at the City Council meeting.

The rally, coordinated by Ehrl La-Fontant andSteve Meacham, staff organizers for Eviction FreeZone, made its first stop in front of 875Massachusetts Ave., the office of landlord AlexSteinbergh. It then proceeded to City Hall tointerrupt last night's City Council meeting anddemand an investigation of a recent series of rentincreases.

The rally cries during the march reflected thediversity of the protesters--the majority of whomwere Haitian and Latin American immigrants.

Demonstrators brandished signs and shouted, "Wewill never give up the fight. A decent home andjob is a right," in English, Spanish and Creole.


The tenants complained that their rents hadincreased drastically in the past year but theirrepeated requests for maintenance had remainedunanswered.

"The rent goes up three times a year and theynever do the work," said Joslaine Vital, a 13-yearresident of Market Street, who left Haiti in 1972."We call every time and they never come."

Vital said her rent has risen from $300 to $689during the last two years.

This hike is typical for many rent controltenants who marched yesterday; most claimed thatrents have nearly doubled in the past two yearsalone. Antonio Perez, who has only lived on MarketStreet for six months said he has already seen a$36 increase in his rent.

"The whole apartment is in very bad condition,"he said in broken English. "We keep calling [thelandlord] but it doesn't help."

Cambridge's rent control system is of no helpto the tenants, said Cheryl A. McClead, aparticipant in the rally and speaker at thecouncil meeting. McClead complained that she andher boyfriend face rent increases for restorationjobs that are long overdue.

Their rent has risen from $250 to $660 since1986, more than a 100 percent increase in fiveyears, she said.

Tenants even accused Steinbergh of falselyclaiming to have improved the apartments to gainrent increases from the Rent Control Board.

The unusual wave of rent hikes from the controlboard has caused financial turmoil for tenants whoare often living just above the poverty line, theprotesters said.

Yanick Pierce, one of Steinbergh's tenants,said--through her daughter's Creole-Englishtranslation--that the fixtures in her apartmentare crumbling and that her apartment lackssufficient heating and hot water.