If it weren't for the little successes here, and the middle-sized successes there, I'm sure it would be hard to keep the faith. Organizing buildings to fight against illegally greedy and duplicitous landlords is tough. It's door-to-door. Often there are cultural and language barriers. There's a fear on the part of tenants that you, the organizer, are actually just one more wolf in sheep's clothing.
Today the Q took his lunch hour at Ebbets Field, where a raucous protest was going down over the harassment of tenants. We learned that there are currently 43 eviction proceedings taking place right now. There were rarely more than 5 at any given time before three years ago. If you are looking for a way to vent some justifiable anger, you'd do no better than contact to the Crown Heights Tenants Union or Cea Weaver from Urban Homestead Assistance Board (UHAB), (212) 479-3300 is the office number, which is ironically located at 120 Wall Street. By all accounts, Cea has become one helluva a good leader, activist and organizer on the issues facing long-term and low-income tenants. Read an article with her from BKMag.
Lotsa people continue to believe that the giant Ebbets Apartments building is somehow public housing, but this is not the case. ABBA Realty acts as the Broker, and like any other broker you can call 'em up and go see an apartment or two. Check out their slick website. Lesser known Fieldbridge Associations, however, is that landlord, that De Blasio targeted last year as in need of a paddling. Now that the word's out that this and other ABBA buildings (like Patio Gardens for instance) are perfectly fine housing and folks are being priced out all over Central Brooklyn, and because Ebbets has some big apartments to boot, the game is on. Bring in college white-educated arts farts (the word Yuppie is so Reagan-era - I prefer CWEAFs - note the "white-e ducated" part, meaning you don't necessarily have to be white per se) tenants, do some cosmetic repairs, take advantage of the 20% vacancy increases every time you get someone to leave, wipe out preferential rents, and presto-change-o, you've got yourself some "Luxury Rentals With Views." Without all the muss and fuss of actually building a building.
Look, it's never gonna shine, that Mitchell-Lama eyesore that stole the name of a legendary ball field that once stood on its terra firma. But it's built sturdy, and along with Tivoli Towers on Franklin, it's long provided affordable housing with a view, close to trains and park and garden. In essence, the kind of housing we NEED MORE OF. In part, of course, it's been affordable beCAUSE of its reputation as public housing. It's seen its fair share of crime through the years, but perhaps by virtue of its density, not so much more than other lower-cost buildings in the area. Per capita that is. And it's not like Lefferts and Flatbush generally well-attended to by landlords or free of crime. Even 13 years ago when I moved here things were more hectic. And forget about it - back in the crack days, and for awhile after the worst, it was not exactly Mayberry RFD around here. Just ask a longtimer - they'll give you the skinny. There's always a bit of pride in the telling, too. Machismo from the guys; from the grandmas it often comes from a deep place, like a soldier who's been there and seen that and lived through some rocky times. Survivors? Maybe to heavy a word. But definitely worldy-wise. Oh, and then there's the guys like my neighbor John, who came back from the horrors of Vietnam to find himself fighting racism AND the drug dealers at the same time. Funny, I just put it together. No wonder he loves old Westerns so much! He's got hundreds of 'em. On VCR of course.
Speaking of cowboys, for a modern-era John Wayne meets Jimmy Stewart, you gotta hand it to Esteban Giron, pictured here with comrade Donna Mossman, they of the Crown Heights Tenants Union. Every time I see him he seems a little more jazzed than last time about the fight against predatory landlords. Without getting into details, these folks have actually managed to get some bigtime corporate owners who paid way too much for their properties to throw up their hands and sell, simply because they're such a pain in the ass with the lawyers to back it up. The hardest part comes after you send a landlord of a single building packing, which is usually a small piece of a large portfolio, how do you sustain the effort and make sure the new boss ain't the same as the old boss? Hitherto at the "Union" they've called each building its own "Local," but now the trick is to band buildings together so that whole blocks, even neighborhoods, are "off-limits" to predatory practices. If anyone can do it, it's CHTU, UHAB, FTC and a bunch of other acronyms that have dug in their heels for the fight of their lives.
News flush. When you're old and feeble, and you look back on your life, you'll wish you'd 1) spent more time with your kids and/or 2) tried to make the world just a bit more just. That's why the Q salutes the field warriors, the cowboys and cowgirls, and even the occasional politician who shows up and then (most important) follows through. To those I saw today (Tish, Walter, Laurie) and to those who I know have their hearts in it (Hakeem, Jumaane, Diana et al), c'mon now bring home the trifecta.
1) No more automatic 20% vacancy increases
2) No more arbitrary caps on stabilization to incentivize the rush to increase rents
3) No more sudden removal of preferential rents
Oh, and while you're at it, rezone Empire to maximize affordability and livability, downzone inner blocks throughout the district, and buy me a Mr. Softy chocolate with chocolate dip.
The Q at Parkside
News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.