The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Friday News Round-Up

Before you go running out the door to protest Forest Ratner or see Jay-Z open Barclays Center, here’s some of what happened in the news this week.

  1. While we haven’t seen the notorious MTA ads in person yet, they were altered (corrected?) almost immediately after they were put up. After this week’s outrage over Pamela Geller’s posters, the MTA has altered their policies regarding advertisements. (Personally, I’d like to go after the ads for this book next.)
  2. Economists, op-ed columnists, bloggers, etc are tripping over each other to announce the next Big Crisis facing American cities. Student loan debt is a front runner. Pension funds are a close second.  Though this may seem far away from the work that we do to fight predatory equity, it’s not. Many state and city pension funds are invested in the very same companies that are buying up rent-regulated housing at inflated prices. This means that private equity companies are using public pension fund money to speculate on affordable housing. If pension funds do happen to get paid back for their investments in these funds – including Lone Star Funds – it will (partially) have been thanks to disinvestment and displacement in low income housing. We hate this. (Learn more about the pension fund problem this week at The Atlantic Cities.)
  3. There was an article in New York Magazine this week, exploring Brooklyn’s history and it’s rapidly changing neighborhoods. Starting with a pretty dire title (“Brooklyn is finished.”), Mark Jacobson goes on to weave his personal history in with the history of the borough, concluding that Brooklyners are a resilient people, they are no stranger to change, and that they will take Barclays Center (and gentrification) in stride, as they always have. We have mixed feelings: its true that cities change, and Brooklyn is no exception. But should we be less concerned about displacement and increased marginalization just because it has happened before? Probably not.
  4. It was a bad week for Stop-and-Frisk. Yesterday at City Hall, hundreds of people showed up to demonstrate against the policy, saying it unfairly targets minorities and young people. And on Tuesday, Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson announced that his office will no longer be prosecuting people for trespassing who were apprehended in public housing projects via Stop-and-Frisk without first interviewing the arresting officer.

As for us, we had a great event outside the New York offices of Lone Star Funds yesterday morning. We had a good time, and hope tenants did as well.

Stay tuned for more pictures and video.

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