Tenants of about a dozen buildings in Crown Heights have formed a group to fight gentrification, landlord abuse and rising rents called Crown Heights Tenant Union, Brooklyn Bureau reported. Formed in October, the group recently held a rally outside 1059 Union Street, above, to protest landlords who try to force out longtime tenants to deregulate apartments and raise rents.
“When long term tenants move out, landlords have been gutting the apartments to deregulate the rents,” said the story. “At the same time the long term residents are not getting repairs in their units.”
The group was created with the assistance of the Pratt Area Community Council and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, or UHAB. The union has a list of demands, “including a five-year rent freeze, timely repairs, a right to organize and a right to fair leases.”
“They’re beautifying the neighborhood,” the story quoted a long-term resident as saying. “I’ve been here for 36 years. I want to enjoy that also.”
As market rents rise dramatically in North Brooklyn, landlords are destroying their own buildings to get rent-regulated tenants to move, according to stories in Gothamist and The New York Times today. Meanwhile, landlords are suing the new state agency designed to crack down on unscrupulous landlords who harass tenants or commit fraud to decontrol their buildings, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Gothamist details the story of Catalina Hidalgo, a tenant at 300 Nassau in Greenpoint who until recently was paying $754 a month in rent. After Hidalgo, an expediter and mother of two 18-month-old twins, reported the landlord for mishandling asbestos abatement during a gut renovation of the apartment below her, the supporting beam under her bathroom was removed. In December, the building’s boilers, water heater, and electrical systems were destroyed with an axe. The DOB issued a full vacate order for the six-unit building. One of the tenants is living in a homeless shelter; the others are staying with friends.
As it happens, the landlord, Joel Israel, is also the landlord of 98 Linden Street in Bushwick, profiled in the Times today. Brownstoner readers may be familiar with the story, which Brooklyn Bureau detailed last month. Under the guise of making repairs, the landlord ripped out floors, walls and plumbing in the kitchens and bathrooms of the two first floor apartments. Eight months later, the construction wreckage is still there and can be seen in a Times video.
Some new twists in the case: When the DOB fined the landlord for demo without a permit, the landlord successfully argued that the tenants had done it, despite a case against him for hundreds of violations by the Department of Housing and Preservation.
Gentrification has pushed so far out in Brooklyn that tenants are moving out of New York City altogether.
“The market for housing has expanded enough that there’s a demand for expensive apartments even that far out [in Brownsville and Canarsie],” Gothamist quoted Cypress Hills Development Corporation tenant organizer Dubois Thomas as saying. “I see it coming down Bushwick Avenue toward East New York — I literally see it. It’s kind of scary.”
Under Bloomberg, more than 60,000 rent regulated units were decontrolled, said the Times.
A tenant at 193 Bedford Avenue in north Williamsburg who works as a home attendant and street vendor was forced to move to Coney Island where she pays twice the rent when the city issued a vacate order because the building was in danger of “imminent collapse” because of the landlord’s “renovations,” according to Gothamist. The building has since been restored but the tenant cannot return to the building because her apartment has been rented to someone else for $3,000 a month.
Yesterday, landlords sued the state over the creation of a state agency, Tenant Protection Unit, designed to prevent exactly these sorts of abuses, claiming it is unfair to landlords.
De Blasio ran on a platform of ending these kinds of abuses and recently said he plans to strengthen tenant protection to prevent homelessness. He has also said he wants to increase development of new buildings and affordable units in them. Do you think these policies will work?
Decades-long residents of a walkup building at 78 St. Marks Place in Park Slope fear losing their homes to a new development. The building, on the corner of 4th Avenue, sold two years ago to new owners, who have filed permits to replace it with a warehouse, The New York Times reported. The new owners have offered the residents money to leave, but it is not enough for a new home, said the residents.
The owners, Victor and Harry Einhorn, father and son, told the Times they actually plan to build a condo tower, not a warehouse. According to PropertyShark, the FAR on the building is 6, and the current building uses slightly less than half that. In 2002, the elder Einhorn was convicted of fraud. They also made headlines recently for serving eviction papers to a Williamsburg day care and senior center.
The New York Times said:
This is New York City in an age of real estate as oil wells. To speak of gentrification, that house-by-house renovation march, is not to do this justice. This is turbo charged, developer plotted, bank fueled, quite intentional and difficult to mediate.
The residents said gentrification has improved the area for the better and they would like to stay.
Update: It looks like the new owners are planning much more than a condo development at one address. In October of 2011 they picked up the three adjacent properties, 85 4th Avenue, 80-82 St. Marks Place, and 87 4th Avenue, in one transaction for $5,400,000, public records show. Except for the aforementioned permit to build a new two-story commercial property, no permits have been filed for these addresses.
Despite efforts to include members from a variety of backgrounds, food co-ops in Clinton Hill, Bushwick, Oakland, Calif., and other gentrifying areas across the U.S. are having a hard time attracting low-income, non-white residents as members, according to a story in the New York Times.
The Greene Hill Food Co-op in Clinton Hill and the Bushwick Food Co-op — two alternatives to the overcrowded Park Slope Food Co-op — are well under way, as more than 120 co-ops open across the country. In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a group starting a co-op there has secured a storefront space and hopes to open soon, The Brooklyn Paper reported.
The Bushwick Food Co-op organizes tours and other outreach efforts through neighborhood groups; Greene Hill offers discounted memberships for low-income members. But, we would like to point out, because they are new and lack the buying power of a large membership, they cannot offer the extremely low prices and high quality for which the Park Slope Food Co-op is famed. (Prices there are about 30 percent lower than other groceries in New York City, even mainstream ones, according to studies.)
The Times also mentions an African-American-led effort in Detroit, but says recent attempts to start co-ops in East New York and the South Bronx have failed.
The story does not mention the Park Slope Food Co-op’s diverse membership, which includes Hasidic Jews, African-Americans, low-income members, and people who live in subsidized housing. We remember back in the 1970s when food co-ops symbolized a do-it-yourself effort to lower costs and improve nutrition, not yuppification. Perhaps new Brooklyn co-ops could short circuit some growing pains by doing group buys with the Park Slope Food Co-op.
Do you think food co-ops are a positive or negative development for Brooklyn?
A panel on gentrification Thursday night at P.S. 321 proposed some concrete ideas for things people can do to improve affordability and increase diversity in their neighborhoods and schools. As a slide show of photos of Brooklyn’s changing communities played in the background, three sociology professors, all of whom live in Brooklyn, briefly presented their research on gentrification and then took questions from the audience. The panel was convened by the school’s Diversity Committee, made up of P.S. 321 parents.
The main way to improve affordability and diversity in the borough is to increase the availability of affordable housing, said the panel. There are many ways to do this, including via rent regulation, community land trusts, co-ops and taxpayer-funded development. “We should be advocating more public investment in these projects, especially at the federal level, and ensure distribution in the most equitable way, including to different neighborhoods,” said Emily Molina, a professor at Brooklyn College whose research focuses on the uneven impact of the ongoing foreclosure crisis. “The private market will not do that.”
Practical suggestions for improving diversity at P.S. 321 included joint projects with other schools. “Figure out what resources you have to share so you can be involved in joint projects,” said Brooklyn College Professor Emeritus of Sociology Jerome Krase. “Think of the district as being one large school.” (more…)
P.S. 321′s Diversity Committee is hosting three sociology professors for a roundtable discussion on gentrification this Thursday. Their conversation will explore the changing racial, ethnic and economic demographics in Brooklyn, as well as the causes and consequences of gentrification in neighborhoods throughout the borough.
The panelists are Dr. Zaire Dinzey-Flores, associate sociology professor at Rutgers, Dr. Jerome Krase, professor emeritus of sociology at Brooklyn College, and Dr. Emily Molina, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College.
Audience members will get to ask questions after the panel is over, and the discussion is open to the public. The Diversity Committee “is a parent-run group at P.S. 321 that is committed to creating a welcoming environment, which supports the rights of all individuals and reflects respect for our diverse student body with a spirit of sensitivity and tolerance,” in their own words.
The panel will take place Thursday at 6:30 pm in the auditorium of P.S. 321, located at 180 7th Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets.
WNYC has been doing a series on middle-income neighborhoods in New York City. Yesterday it was Bed Stuy’s turn.
They spoke to three residents about their households — two who with their families have been in the neighborhood for many years and own property there, and a couple who just arrived and is renting. While the story doesn’t get specific about all their incomes, ironically it looks like the renters, who are public interest lawyers, have the highest incomes, but are also living paycheck to paycheck with crazy student loan debt and relatively high housing costs. They are struggling to save a down payment to buy something, and note that by the time they do, if they do, they won’t be able to afford to buy anything in Bed Stuy.
All those interviewed identify as middle class, as most U.S. residents do, although a sociologist would probably disagree. The series assumes that “middle income” is also “middle class,” which is not necessarily the case, depending on how you define class.
One of the long-time residents plans to pass her house on to her children. The other one intends to cash out and move someplace warmer.
The story extensively quoted Evans & Nye co-owner and Bed Stuy resident Ban Leow, whose agency has been setting price records left and right for exquisite brownstones in the area. With a refreshing honesty, he acknowledged real estate firms play a role in gentrification. “A lot of middle class people are looking for homes around here, it also seems they’re being priced out,” he said. ”The vigorous activity of Bed-Stuy became suddenly so hot, we are partly the reason for it as well…Brokers are always the person that brings the right people in, creates this vibrant mix of people, and hence business will come in, prices will go up and you are liked by some, hated by many.”
The story also has many beautiful photos of Bed Stuy’s amazing architecture. (Above, some brownstones we photographed — but click through to the WNYC story to see their great photos.)
The bottom line, according to the story? Bed Stuy is not going to remain middle income for long.
The two-family in East New York priced at $599,999 that was yesterday’s HOTD, above, also inspired The New York Daily News to take a look at East New York and whether it could be Brooklyn’s next “home buying frontier,” as the Brooklyn section teaser headline put it. “Spacious, affordable” properties there such as the one at 504 Georgia Avenue could lure buyers priced out of rapidly appreciating neighborhoods such as Crown Heights, Bed Stuy and Bushwick. “However, crime in the area remains a concern,” the story continued.
Listing agent Louis Belisario of Fillmore told the Daily News the area is good for investors because of its relative affordability and skyrocketing rents. “Rates are very low and rents here are going through the roof. It’s a great house because if you bought it, your rental income would cover most of your mortgage,” he said.
As other reports have shown, the area has seen an influx of renters priced out from other areas of Brooklyn. Violent crime in the area decreased last year, but “robbery, grand larceny and general assault” were all up.
Councilwoman Inez Barron (married to former Councilman Charles Barron) said keeping East New York affordable for current residents is a priority. She also noted the waves of newcomers moving in and said the area “has the greatest retention and growth of people moving into the community. We’re getting a grip on crime. Crime is going down.”
Commenters have previously said the area’s large number of public housing projects makes it an unlikely candidate for gentrification. What’s your opinion?
In a five-part series, The New York Times followed an 11-year-old girl living with six siblings and her parents in a homeless shelter in Fort Greene. The story contrasts the appalling conditions at the Auburn Family Residence at 39 Auburn Place — it has made headlines for years for having no heat and other problems — with the changes in the surrounding neighborhood. Mice dart in and out of a crumbling wall. A hair dryer warms the baby’s crib.
“City and state inspectors have repeatedly cited the shelter for deplorable conditions, including sexual misconduct by staff members, spoiled food, asbestos exposure, lead paint and vermin,” said the Times. “Auburn has no certificate of occupancy, as required by law, and lacks an operational plan that meets state regulations. Most of the shelter’s smoke detectors and alarms have been found to be inoperable.” Click through to the story for photos reminiscent of Jacob Riis’ “How the Other Half Lives.”
Outside, “the skyline soars with luxury towers, beacons of a new gilded age. More than 200 miles of fresh bike lanes connect commuters to high-tech jobs, passing through upgraded parks and avant-garde projects like the High Line and Jane’s Carousel. Posh retail has spread from its Manhattan roots to the city’s other boroughs. These are the crown jewels of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s long reign…as the city reorders itself around the whims of the wealthy.”
The parents are unemployed and have had problems with drug addiction, while the number of families living in homeless shelters has grown since a 2004 Bloomberg policy that no longer gives homeless priority for public housing.
More than 22,000 children are homeless in New York City, “the highest number since the Great Depression, in the most unequal metropolis in America,” said the story. “One in five American children is now living in poverty, giving the United States the highest child poverty rate of any developed nation except for Romania.”
The family is trying to save money to move to Pennsylvania. When asked why families are staying longer in the shelter system, Bloomberg said it was because they offer “a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”
“I’m seeing in Bed-Stuy what I saw happen in Williamsburg in 2002,” said David Maundrell, founder and president of Aptsandlofts. “We’ve been working out there for a very long time.”
The company has just rented its third Brooklyn office, which will be located in Bed Stuy at 308 Malcolm X Boulevard between MacDonough and Decatur streets, Crain’s reported. Maundrell, who grew up in Williamsburg, opened his first office there in 2002, and last year opened a second office in Cobble Hill. The firm was an early catalyst in Williamsburg’s growth, and often advised developers renovating old tenements about the kind of design its clients favored over the standard Home Depot approach. More recently, it has become known for marketing a high proportion of the neighborhood’s new luxury rentals, such as 53 Broadway and 50 North 5th.
The new office will focus on a “large collection of new condominium units, as well as commercial and retail spaces, that will soon be hitting the market in Bed Stuy and the surrounding neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Clinton Hill and Bushwick,” said Crain’s. Aptsandlofts plans to hire 45 more agents (bringing the total head count at the firm to 150) and open its doors in January.
The new offices are located in the same building as real estate developer Brookland Capital, which recently bought the building and opened its own offices there. Aptsandlofts joins many other medium-sized and neighborhood based real estate firms, including Evans & Nye, Flateau Realty Corp., and Stuyvesant Heights Brokerage.
“As low inventory and high costs push more prospective buyers and renters into Bed Stuy, sales transactions have been heating up,” said the story. Maundrell “has seen families move into the neighborhood and plunk down $1 million to convert a three-family home into one just for themselves, something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.” The neighborhood’s blocks of brownstones “are more reminiscent of Cobble Hill” than Williamsburg, said Maundrell.
Do you agree Bed Stuy is the new Williamsburg? How do you think the area is changing?
Florent founder Florent Morellet, energized by the scene in Bushwick, moved from Manhattan and into the condo-turned-rental CastleBraid apartments there, above, in September. Back in the day, he dressed in drag and promoted political causes at his celebrated 24-hour Meatpacking District restaurant, Florent, which opened in 1985. It recently closed because of escalating rent.
He is sick of hearing “everyone in Manhattan complaining about the way things used to be,” and was eager to escape the “naturally occurring retirement community” there, The New York Times reported. Bushwick “is very charged, with all the young people making art, making restaurants, they are forwarding ideas,” said his close friend Denise Dalfo. “In his life, he loves this, he feeds on this energy.”
He has no plans to open a restaurant there, he said, but he might do something — perhaps a bar or performance space. For now, he is enjoying the neighborhood, and helping out with a December fundraiser put on by EcoStation:NY:
He spends days scouting for new sneakers on Knickerbocker Avenue, watching the skateboarders in Maria Hernandez Park, buying stone crabs for $1.99 a pound at the Sea Town market on Linden Street and sampling fried pig’s ears and other Latin American street fare. Every experience is fresh for him. “It’s amazing. I just cry. I cry almost every day,” he said, tears dripping through his laughter.
Most interesting is his comparison of Bushwick now with bohemian New York of bygone days: “I found the New York that I love,” he told the Times. “It’s actually better than the one that I found when I came. It’s safer.”
Wealthy buyers are flocking to Williamsburg, lured by new townhouses and shiny high rise apartments on the waterfront, according to an article in the Financial Times. A third of all sales in the area in the last three years went to foreign buyers. And the population has increased 10,245 since 2000, to 125,000.
“Williamsburg is now an established part of New York’s luxury property market,” the article quoted Corcoran agent Christine Blackburn as saying. “International buyers, as well as long-time New York investors, no longer see Manhattan as the only place to purchase upscale property.”
More than 130 new buildings were built or planned over the past two years, which works out to 2,818 new apartments by the end of this year plus 2,766 more in 2014. As the FT put it: (more…)