Bushwick residents, elected officials march against 'negligent landlords'

As gentrification continues in Bushwick, some landlords will inevitably try to evict low-income tenants. An organized march in the neighborhood on Sunday was part of a movement against this trend — a movement that already has the support of several powerful officials and has been given new hope by the election of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

As protests continue, landlords and speculators who are accused of forcing tenants into unlivable conditions increasingly find themselves in the spotlight.

In Sunday’s march, organized by Make the Road New York and Real Affordability for All, elected officials and tenants walked through the neighborhood to target landlords who they say are violating the city’s Housing Maintenance Code, refusing to make repairs and mistreating longtime low-income residents.

Participants in the march urged included Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Public Advocate Letitia James, Councilman Antonio Reynoso, Councilman Carlos Menchaca, Bushwick tenants and members of the organizations that organized the protest. They urged de Blasio to pursue greater code enforcement and other actions that will help protect tenants and preserve affordable housing in Bushwick.

The marchers first gathered at 1418 Dekalb Avenue, where they held a press conference, and then marched to 171 Irving Ave. and 324 Central Ave., where residents described mistreatment by building owners.

"I live at 98 Linden St. and have been there for 24 years,” said Michelle Navas. “Ten months ago, my landlord came into the apartment to repair the kitchen and bathroom, but instead he demolished it. Since then, my family has had to use the neighbor's bathroom and kitchen. This is no way to live, and I am urging our city to crackdown on 'bad actor' landlords so that more families don't have to go through what we are going through.”

"Today I marched because I need the protection of my city so that my apartment gets repaired, so that I feel safe in my building and so that I do not get displaced like other families in my building," said Maria Pucha, who lives at 1418 Dekalb Ave.

"The great vision of a city with affordable housing must be coupled with a determined will to preserve all units of affordable housing. We cannot talk of building new units of affordable housing without doing the work of preserving existing units of affordable housing," said City Councilman Rafael Espinal.

During the march, tenants, community leaders and elected officials called attention to a recent report by Make the Road New York called "The Roof Over Our Heads: The Case for Stronger Enforcement of New York City's Housing Maintenance Code." The report points out that "neighborhoods where landlords allow their buildings to fall into disrepair are often the same neighborhoods experiencing rapid gentrification and high-levels of displacement."

The report recommends that more effective enforcement of the Housing Maintenance Code should include stronger incentives for landlords to make repairs, tougher penalties for landlords who do not comply with the code, and greater protections to ensure that tenants are not forced to endure dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

Make the Road New York is a Bushwick-based organization that advocates for working-class and immigrant, mainly Latino, New Yorkers on a variety of issues.