Fight buyouts, rent increases, and lead to keep their homes.
This is a cautionary tale for those who find affordable housing, become part of a community for decades, only to face pressure to relocate when their part of the street becomes the place to be. Such is the circumstance of those living at 191 Bedford Avenue (between North 6th and North 7th Streets).
New real estate development on Bedford Avenue between Metropolitan Avenue and North 12th has become a matter of deep pocket investment. For instance in 2016 the Salvation Army at North 7th Street and Bedford Avenue was sold to Thor Development for $30M. New development often goes hand-in-hand with displacement of long-term tenants.
Most of the tenants of 191 Bedford Avenue have lived in the building for twenty or more years. In 2018, after they encountered repeated heat and hot water shutoffs, delays in necessary repairs, etc., tenants reached out individually to St. Nicks Alliance to obtain advice and assistance in improving their living conditions. A new owner took over the building in January 2022, and conditions deteriorated with increasing speed. The new landlord began aggressive, disruptive, and unsafe construction. St Nicks Alliance housing counselors and community organizers organized the majority of tenants at the building, provided them information about their tenant rights, linked them to legal service providers, and coordinated inspections with city agencies.
“When inspectors came they told me that my apartment has lead. This pained me as my 6-year-old daughter tested positive for lead in her recent medical exams,” said Zenaida Andrade, a tenant of 191 Bedford Avenue for 18 years. She also has another child who could be affected, plus health conditions that are in her family add extra worry.
On July 21, a tenants’ rally was held in front of the building. Community advocates and elected officials came out to offer their support. All knew they would face the extreme heat that the middle of a record-breaking heatwave would throw at them, but this only fueled the fire of their cause: protecting long-term members of the community from harm and intimidation inflicted on them as a means to get them to move out.
Transito Tlapanco has lived in the building for 24 years with her husband, who has lived in the building for 32 years. At the rally she stated the tenants demands, “That the construction is done in a way that is safe for the tenants. That the repairs are done in a timely manner. That the construction workers have licenses to carry out the work. That the vacant apartments do not remain vacant, because that could cause other problems in the future.”
191 Bedford Avenue has less than 50% occupancy. There are nine units that have been vacant for over six months. Seven units are occupied.
“Warehousing apartments, tenant harassment and forced displacement is never acceptable but it’s especially outrageous in the midst of an historic housing crisis. Let’s be clear: unreasonable rent increases are evictions. I stand with our neighbors and their right to remain in the homes,” said NYS Assembly Member Emily Gallagher (District 50).
“I strongly support our longtime neighbors at 191 Bedford Avenue on the Northside. The neglect and shameful behavior demonstrated by this landlord will not be tolerated. Gratitude to each of the tenants and to St Nicks Alliance for fighting back!” said NYC Council Member Lincoln Restler (District 33)
When asked to comment, NYC Council Member (District 34) Jennifer Gutierrez stated, “For too long, landlords have used these unjust tactics as a way to force tenants out of their homes, and in a midst of a housing crisis, they are sitting on units that could be of use for the community. This kind of behavior isn’t new, but it remains incredibly unacceptable and I stand with our neighbors fighting back against these bad actors.”
“As North Brooklyn continues to be the epicenter of displacement, St. Nicks Alliance continues its firm commitment to prevent the displacement of low to moderate income tenants. Today we stand with the tenants from 191 Bedford. Our message to other tenants facing displacement, harassment, or other housing issues is: ‘You are not alone, we are here to help you,’” said Frank Lang, dir. of housing for St. Nicks Alliance.