Fans of spectacle and outlandish facial hair were crestfallen when Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High party, lost to Bill de Blasio in the 2013 New York City mayoral election. But with Monday's unfortunate news that he's undergoing an eviction from his Manhattan apartment, Jimmy is back in the press.
According to the New York Daily News, this particular rent-controlled unit wasn't being used as a primary residence, which violates the terms of staying in a rent-controlled apartment. McMillan disputes the claim, and isn't taking it lying down. He's seemingly ready to turn this personal problem into yet another battle for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers.
When I asked him if the eviction was tied to the issue of rents being too damn high, he said his eviction "is about a nigger, living on a piece of property owned by a rich guy, who doesn't want a nigger living on his property."
"They think I'm playing with them? I'm not fucking around and playing games," he told me.
Despite making a name for himself by saying "damn" on TV a lot, McMillan was a little torn about using foul language on the phone with me. "That kind of language is not what the Rent Is Too Damn High Party represents," he said. But he's adamant in this case that high rents are just a small part of the story. "It's not about me paying lower rent!" he told me, before correcting himself: "No, maybe that's an understatement. It is about me paying low rent. But also because I'm the only negro in the building."
I tried to hammer out the somewhat confusing details of the story on the phone. The dispute is about not being allowed to have a key, according to McMillan, but it's about not actually living in the building, according to the property owner. Trying to get him to tell me flat out if he was residing in the apartment wasn't easy.
First, he skirted around the issue of whether he had been living in the unit prior to a court case filed by his landlord in 2011. At that time, he says his son was living there. To hear him tell it, Lisco Holdings, which owns his building, was acting pretty strange, and whoever was acting as his landlord was in defiance of a court order. "The judge ordered him to give me a key, and he refused to give me a key," he told me. That's something that, if true, would almost certainly sway a judge if this ended up going to court.
But his son apparently had a key all along. "I used to wait for him to go to the front door, and have him hold the door for me, and that is how I was able to get into my apartment, because he locked me out of the building, not my apartment." He claims the apartment has been his primary residence for about three years, and he told the Daily News that his other apartment in Brooklyn is strictly an office. "My son went into the army on February 27, 2012. I'm able to come and go freely because I have his key."
McMillan's version of the story suggests that lawyers and judges are colluding to kick him out. "[Lisco's] law firm, Borah Goldstein, and a judge called Laurie Lau are working together to try and get me out of this apartment, and there's nothing wrong with me."
The law firm representing Lisco Holdings didn't return calls for comment.
"I have until February 5 to get out," McMillan said. But he plans to fight it, claiming he's been performing an undercover investigation into this particular issue. "As an undercover investigator, my job was to catch them doing wrong," he told me, adding, "my job is to stop them, because people are getting hurt."
He says that to protect himself, he's tried to contact the city council, the governor, the state's attorney, state senators, and the borough president. But he claims that "they're not even trying, because they didn't get elected trying to fight for lower rent, or trying to fight corruption in housing like I am. It's a problem, but I'm not going to quit fighting."
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