Marchers for tenants’ rights share landlord horror stories

No affordable rent, no peace. Photos by Camille Lawhead

No affordable rent, no peace. Photos by Camille Lawhead

As you may have heard, affordable housing in Brooklyn is kind of a mess. On Saturday, activists and Crown Heights residents marched to fight for tenants’ rights and to keep the city from unraveling into pre-revolutionary France.

Over 100 residents and activists representing Crown Heights Tenant Union, New York Communities for Change, Alliance for Tenant Power, Equality for Flatbush, and the Urban Homestead Assistance Board met on the corner of Franklin Ave. and President Street at 10:30am, spilling into one lane of Franklin Ave. The crowd was composed of mostly middle aged and senior black tenants, with some younger white organizers joining with brass instruments and bucket drums.

Speakers addressed the crowd for about an hour before the marchers began moving down Franklin Avenue and onto Flatbush, shouting chants including “Fight fight fight, housing in a right,” “They say go away, we say no way” and “Tenants united will never be defeated.”

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“We’re tired of replacement, tired of people moving out when their grandmother lived there,” one speaker said. “We’ve been here too long.”

Marcia Louisy holds a sign demonstrating her landlord's neglect

Marcia Louisy holds a sign demonstrating her landlord’s neglect

Marcia Louisy has lived at 1045 Union Street for 14 years. She held a sign with photos of the severe damage in her apartment. “It’s been like this for years now,” she told us. “The bathroom ceiling came down on me and I’ve got a rusty fridge.” She said her complaints have been met with retaliation from the building’s management, ZT Realty.

Marcia McLean, who also lives at 1045 Union Street, said members of the management had been arrested for placing recording devices in apartments to listen to tenant meetings. In addition to trying to sabotage tenant meetings McLean said, “They’ve made illegal conversions, they’re putting tenants in danger, [and] they’re overcharging new tenants.”

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At one point Louisy addressed the crowd. “They want to force us out of the building so I’m homeless and in a shelter. They know we built the neighborhood and now they want to take it back. We’re going to take back the area that we built.” She said there are now people in her building being overcharged and paying $4,200 for a 3-bedroom apartment. She and McLean are among the only black tenants remaining.

TK with a message for his landlord

Henrick Mead with a message for his landlord

Henrick and Lennette Mead have lived in a rent stabilized apartment at 1086 President Street for 29 years. Lennette told us Shamco Management has removed her name from the couple’s lease in an attempt to kick them out by arguing only one person lives in their two-bedroom apartment.

“There’s water damage and the walls are coming down,” Henrick said, and “they lie about what the rent is for.” He said Shamco has charged them for repairs the city required the management company to make and has accused the Meads of not paying rent. Henrick has gone to court with the company and said Shamco had falsified repair charges and said the rent he paid went toward those repairs. In reality, the Meads said, the actual repairs have been minimal.

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Protestors were joined by a handful of politicians who took turns addressing the crowd. A representative for State Representative Yvette Clarke said the city can’t make decision on the back of Brooklyn tenants. NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer urged NYCHA needs to be rebuilt and Public Advocate Letitia James mentioned her Worst Landlord Watchlist.

Assemblyman Karim Camara said in the last 20 years over 100,000 rent controlled apartments have been lost. The rate is now 10,000 units lost per year, he said, and creating new housing units would be ineffective until the loss was addressed. “You can’t fill a bucket with water when there’s a hole. There’s a hole in the system. We need to stop the loss.”