Allie Dentinger '24 became interested in tenant organizing and housing rights while she was a teacher in western New York.
While it started as a side interest outside of her day job, it has since grown into the next step in her career.
As a non-traditional student with a clear idea of her goals, finding a school to gain the knowledge and experience she needed to help people in the fight for fair housing was crucial. She heard about work being done at Albany Law School, specifically within The Justice Center, and it fit her needs well.
She is now involved in the Community Economic Development Clinic and working alongside staff attorney David Crossman, Professor Ted De Barbieri, and other students to help Albany residents facing housing issues.
“I feel so honored to have Professor De Barbieri as a mentor, he cares so much about these issues. I feel like he is letting me take charge on a lot of things and giving me space to learn. I'm currently representing tenants in eviction court and working with them to try and use some tools that have been created in the Justice Center to help them.”
One of those tools, the H.A.R.M. Calculator, helps tenants put a number on non-repair issues. It helps the tenants, as well as the attorneys and nonprofits who are working with them, to have an idea of what to request when working to get reasonable damages fixed.
For Dentinger, these tools have made her learning experience that much better. They regularly help her build a case for clients and sometimes, the courts.
With help from Crossman, Dentinger and Tom McCarthy ’23, filed an amicus brief in support of the Bleecker Terrace Tenants Association and United Tenants of Albany, an organization that helps Albany residents facing eviction.
Albany’s “Good Cause Eviction” law, enacted in 2021, was the first of its kind in New York and has since served as a model for other cities. The law has been battled in courts and most recently, was rejected by The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. This development has pushed advocates, including those at The Justice Center, to pressure lawmakers for statewide “good cause” measures.
“The instability that low income New Yorkers face is a huge issue. One of the [main] points of the good cause law is that you should not be unreasonably priced out if you are a tenant that pays their rent on time and consistently. You shouldn't have to worry that they're not going to renew your lease or that if you call code enforcement that they'll find some way to get you out,” Dentinger said.
Earning her law degree is a huge privilege, Dentinger said, and it will give her the advantage and knowledge to continue helping those in need.
“It’s possible to do pro bono work on the side and have a career, but it's also possible to have a career in public interest work,” she said. “I would encourage anybody who's interested in housing and interested in a law degree to check out Albany Law. It’s a great place to learn and gain skills to help this area of growing need.”