A Prospect Heights block party yesterday had homemade food, loud music and a louder message: Good neighbors do not evict neighbors. The Fifth Avenue Committee-organized event was aimed at drawing attention to the plight of four rent-stabilized tenants facing eviction from 533 Bergen Street, and it highlighted bubbling tensions over affordable housing, gentrification and Atlantic Yards. Councilmember Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and various activists spoke in support of the longtime tenants, who are fighting lawsuits from 533 Bergen’s new owners. The two couples that bought the building last yearâ€”Dan Bailey and Felicity Loughrey, along with Deanne Cheuk and Andre Wiesmayrâ€”claim they want to evict the tenants because Bailey and Loughrey intend to construct a triplex for themselves out of the units. Under current laws, landlords of rent-stabilized buildings are allowed to evict tenants if they plan to live in the units themselves.
Most speakers called for reforming rent-regulation laws and maintaining affordability for low-income residents. Rents in Prospect Heights are increasingly beyond the means of most working-class families, said Councilmember James. We must preserve this community’s diversity. James and Senator Montgomery both characterized the push to evict 533 Bergen’s tenants as secondary displacement from Atlantic Yards. Brent Meltzer, a lawyer with South Brooklyn Legal Services who is representing one of the tenants, noted that if the landlords succeed with the evictions, 3,500 square feet that four families live in will be given over to just one family. The most basic articulation of the situation, however, came from Rosa Negron, one of 533 Bergen’s residents: How you going to evict people who’ve been living here all these years?