NYC’s ‘Rent Is Too Damn High’ candidate fends off latest eviction attempt

Gothamist, David Brand, April 6, 2023

Jimmy McMillan, a former candidate for governor whose “Rent Is Too Damn High” slogan still resonates with tenants across New York City, is back in his apartment after a lengthy stay in a nursing home — and a decadelong effort to evict him.

McMillan, 76, said he returned to his rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment in the East Village in December, 10 months after a likely stroke sent him to a Queens nursing home for military veterans. While rehabbing there, McMillan appeared remotely in housing court to contest the latest in a series of eviction cases against him dating back to 2011.

At one point last year, McMillan owed roughly $50,000 in back rent, but said he and the landlord have resolved the case.

“Healthwise, I’m gonna be just fine,” he told Gothamist inside his apartment last week. “Let everybody know Jimmy McMillan is fighting for his life.”

Court records, first reported by City Limits, show McMillan made multiple payments to chip away at the arrears, with assistance from the court-appointed guardian Jewish Association Serving the Aging. More recent court documents reference a settlement allowing him to stay in the apartment, where he said he first moved 46 years ago.

“I’m glad he’s home,” said his niece Tennille McMillan, a designer who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where rents are spiking. “It’s been interesting to see how he saw what was going to happen before it was happening. In 2010, people thought he was exaggerating, but now we’re here.”

She said she hopes he continues to speak out, “but he has to pay his rent.”

McMillan went viral when he represented the Rent Is Too Damn High Party on stage at a candidate’s debate ahead of the 2010 gubernatorial election. The legendary performance by McMillan, bearing intricate facial hair and black gloves, emerged as an endlessly memeable contribution to the New York political canon.

But for McMillan, at least, the rent wasn’t really that damn high at all. He just stopped paying it, according to court documents submitted by his landlord. He failed to make payments while fighting a prior eviction caseclaiming the St. Marks Place apartment was not his primary residence — a potential violation of rent-stabilization rules. He won that case, even after a judge ordered him out in 2015.

McMillan’s rent is now just under $900 a month. But his mounting arrears prompted his landlord, Jaguar Holdings 1 LLC, to file the nonpayment eviction case in May. The company lists developer Nader Ohebshalom as manager. Ohebshalom hung up when contacted by phone for this story. The landlord’s attorney Stephen Shulman declined to comment.

During McMillan’s previous eviction proceedings, a judge appointed the Jewish Association Serving the Aging as his guardian and legal representative. His attorney did not respond to multiple phone calls.

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