This morning one of our readers tipped us off to these fliers that were stuffed in car windows and stuck on front doors throughout Stuyvesant Heights in Bed Stuy. The fliers use racist imagery of watermelons and fried chicken, presumably to paint the investors who are buying up property in the neighborhood as racist. And they urge homeowners “Shut it down Bed Stuy by any means necessary.” Presumably that means not selling their homes to investors.
Our reader thought the fliers might be a response to New York Magazine recent story that revealed the real estate business practices of a racist landlord-investor. He described replacing black renters with white ones and speculated black property owners in Bed Stuy would start “dumping” houses to buy in East New York.
The hashtag on the flier, #standupbedstuy, links back to Joshua Wiles. A little Googling reveals a schoolteacher of that name who lives in Bed Stuy who brought a lawsuit against some Hasidic businesses for allegedly discriminatory dress codes, and was active in Occupy Wall Street.
We’re not sure, but we think he might have been the same activist who was ejected from a Bed Stuy panel on gentrification last year for disrupting it. At the time, he vowed to start a campaign against “Brokeland Capital,” aka Brookland Capital, a prolific developer of condos in Brooklyn based in Bed Stuy.
We find the situation in Bed Stuy to be more complex than described in the fliers. Recent change in the area — remarked on by several speakers at Community Board 3’s last meeting, which we attended — is not only, or even primarily, due to longtime black owners of brownstones selling to developers. New-building development is limited, and mostly on empty lots and, to a lesser extent, wood frame houses and churches on oversize lots.
Elderly homeowners losing their homes to fraud, tax liens and all-cash flippers who don’t pay what the property is worth are some of the pressing concerns raised by community leaders and community groups such as the Brownstoners of Bed Stuy, who have educational programs to help homeowners. Also, now that their properties are worth something, black owners have the same right to benefit from a sale as anyone else, some might argue.
Click through to see more versions of the flier and a picture of them stuffed in car windows on Stuyvesant Avenue. What do you think of the fliers? Have you seen any? — Jim Rendon and Cate Corcoran