By Matthew Taub
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Tenants took to the streets on Saturday to tell their landlords that they were fed up with a cycle of displacement and rent overcharges. The Crown Heights Tenant Union (CHTU), an alliance of long-term residents and recently-arrived tenants, marched through the neighborhood to fight the rapid loss of affordable housing while demanding that building owners assent to a number of legally binding protections for the future.
“Predatory practices by banks, landlords and building management are forcing rent stabilized tenants out and overcharging new residents,” said Keisha Jacobs, an organizer and member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union. “The stack of small injustices, the clerical mistakes on your rent receipt the administrative errors like cashing your rent check late. Or the ceiling in your bathroom that’s coming down around your ears. All the while we are being dragged back and forth to housing court in an effort to evict us, or offered paltry buyouts to move us from our homes. This is not just a simple screw up. It’s systemic. It’s tactical. You are being targeted.”
Recent data shows that New York City faces a severe housing crunch, and that the cost of renting in New York City is sky-rocketing. This problem is particularly profound in Crown Heights, where the real estate industry is seeking to profit from rising rents through harassment and displacement of long term residents and illegal overcharging of newcomers, according to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a non-profit housing advocacy organization.
The Crown Heights Tenant Union is using a collective bargaining strategy to push back against these unethical and at-times illegal tactics. Specifically, the CHTU’s demands include a five-year rent freeze, a ban on common methods landlords use to vacate rent regulated buildings and convert them into luxury apartments, and radical strengthening of State tenant protection laws.
At the rally on Saturday, the Union called on the largest landlords in the area, among them BCB Capital Management, Pinnacle Realty, and TGB One Associates, to comply with these demands through a legally binding agreement.
The CHTU will also demand a rent freeze at the upcoming Brooklyn Rent Guildelines Board on June 18.