Further boosting the opportunities for tenant activism in North Brooklyn, Southside United HDFC – Los Sures launched the Tenants Army last week, a group that aims to unify tenants that have been harassed by their landlords, to fight collectively against corrupt practices and displacement from the neighborhood.
The Tenants Army will work in tandem with the Allied Communities Against Buy-Outs (ACABO), a coalition of elected officials, tenant advocates, and community organizations, that was recently launched by Councilmember Antonio Reynoso.
While ACABO work towards addressing concerns through spearheading legislation and changing existing practices, the Tenants Army will focus on getting together aggrieved tenants, collecting their stories and complaints, and organizing demonstrations and protests in response as a unified front.
The idea for the Tenants Army came about as an increasing number of North Brooklyn residents began visiting Los Sures asking for assistance against landlord harassment. It has become a common practice for new landlords to purchase rent stabilized buildings, and on the pretext of making repairs render the buildings unlivable, thereby forcing the tenants out to make way for pricy condominiums.
This scenario has played out in buildings like 98 Linden Street and 159 Suydam Street in Bushwick and 300 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint. Slowly, but surely, residents have begun notching victories. In February, a Brooklyn housing court judge allowed the residents of 300 Nassau to return to their homes over a year after the city vacated it. Last December, a Williamsburg resident was allowed to return to her home after it was converted into a condo, more than a year after she was forced out; and on Friday, 11 Upper West Side tenants were awarded free rent on their homes that were taken over to make way for condos.
Over 250 people attended the first Tenants Army meeting organized by Los Sures Thursday night.
“Part of the work we do will be to continue oversee what is going on with rent regulation,” said Debbie Medina, a longtime housing advocate and organizer at Los Sures. “It’s important to get people out there. I believe if we educate our tenants we can make leaders out of them.”
To learn more about the Tenants Army, visit http://www.southsideunitedhdfc.org/.