The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Tag Archives: NYCB

Suprise, Suprise, We’re still here.

Last night Cea and I proceeded to have a building meeting at 602 W 139 Street after a menacing conversation with “Ralph”.

About 25 minutes into our meeting, a gruff looking man with a lot gel in his hair (presumably “Ralph”) interrupted the meeting to let us know that Cea and I had no legal right to be in the building.

After handing “Ralph” the law which says that we do in fact have the right to organize, he continued to insist (without even looking at the paper) that we were illegal intruders, and he proceeded to call the cops.

Cea and I politely encouraged him to do so, and handed out more copies of the law to the tenants.

Apparently this pesky “Ralph” is also the Missing-In-Action  super for the building – and tenants hilariously used this opportunity to recommend that he make more repairs. This was followed by a bout of shouting, and then…

The cops arrived.

This was followed by a polite conversation in which Cea and I informed them of the law, handed them a copy of it, and explained that we were invited into the building for this meeting. Tenants agreed and explained that we were invited guests. The policeman asked “Ralph” if he had seen a copy of this law and “Ralph” of course said no.  The policeman turned to the tenant’s and said “this guy really shouldn’t be giving you a hard time”, and “Ralph” sauntered away quietly.

Not that I’m keeping score or anything, but as of yesterday it looks like:  Tenants: 1 Management: 0

“NYCB Hurts NYC” Photo Campaign Kicks Off!

An example of tenant frustrations with bad conditions- sent to us by a tenant at 2401Cortelyou Rd. Brooklyn

This past week the UHAB organizers have been running all over Manhattan and Brooklyn dropping flyers in some of New York Community Bank’s most distressed properties.  Until today, the pictures featured on the “Picture This!” section of our blog were all  from buildings that we have been working with for many months, sometimes years. But now, as we power through our research and identify more NYCB buildings in bad shape, we are reaching out to a host of new buildings and encouraging tenants to send us their photos and join the campaign against NYCB.

And the leg work is paying off! A tenant from 2401 Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, one of ten new buildings where we distributed flyers, gave us a CD full of pictures from her building. You can see those pictures (and more!) here.

Sometimes we just slipped flyers under tenants’ doors with instructions for emailing photos, other times we ran into tenants in the hallway and explained our campaign in more depth. As expected, many of the tenants we met in these NYCB buildings were suffering with bad conditions. We plan to return to a few of these buildings to begin organizing, but we don’t have capacity to go back to all of them. Even though we might not organize in every building, we are hoping that the “Picture This!” page can serve as visual proof of the urgency of the housing crisis in NYC, and can be an importance reference point for media outlets, elected officials, and the general public.

The idea behind this flyer drop and the entire “NYCB Hurts NYC” photo campaign is this:

1. Create a wider network of tenants engaged in the campaign to hold the bank accountable

2. Expose the negative effects of predatory lending on New York City housing stock

3. Expand organizing capacity in NYC by creating a database of distressed buildings that advocate groups can use to identify new outreach

4. Utilize new media to more effectively show and tell the story of the threat to quality, affordable housing

If you would like to join this effort, please get in touch:

thesurrealestate@gmail.com or 212-479-3336

VIDEOS: June 2 Protest Against NYCB

Wondering what it looks like to protest New York Community Bank? One week ago, tenants from all over New York City showed up outside of the NYCB annual shareholders meeting. They demanded that the bank practice more responsible lending. One tenant who was in attendance lives with her husband and two daughters in a NYCB building that was recently destroyed by an electrical fire. NYCB is demanding $1.1M for the incredibly distressed property.  “I’m here because this is our life,” she said.

While we took this video and chanted with tenants outside, our allies at Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition and National People’s Action brought tenants inside the shareholder’s meeting to directly appeal to the NYCB executives and shareholders. They were denied the opportunity to speak at the meeting. Thanks to Amanda, we have a video of what happened inside.

Tenants Speak Out at the NYCB Shareholder Meeting!

By 10 AM this morning, at least 80 tenants and advocates from distressed buildings all over New York were already blue in the face, protesting New York Community Bank’s irresponsible lending practices at their annual shareholder meeting in Queens.

We asked shareholders to intervene, and tell NYCB to stop selling loans to irresponsible landlords, adhere to sound underwriting standards, and sell loans to responsible landlords who promise to maintain buildings in safe and decent condition.

Shareholder’s got this flyer:

Despite the fact that the police were out in full force, and the hotel tried to create a wall of vehicles between the tenants and the shareholders, the tenants prevailed. Not only did a group of us interrupt the shareholder’s meeting to discuss the issue and say a prayer (before we were escorted outside), but we chanted outside the hotel  for almost two hours – causing a very peaceful raucous. This is what it looked like:

Let’s hope that as the weekend approaches, NYCB reconsiders its lending practices and decides to proceed in a responsible way. If not, I guess we’ll be back soon.

Many thanks to all of the wonderful tenants and activists who came out today. Big ups to all the folks at: ANHD, Tenants and Neighbors, Pratt Area Community Council, North West Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, and Community Action for Safe Apartments!

“Bronx debt sale triggers storm of protest”: Crain’s New York Business

Van Cortlandt Village

In the latest in a series of note sales on distressed properties by New York Community Bank, it has unloaded the mortgage on three foreclosed Bronx buildings riddled with code violations, and once again drawn the ire of city officials, politicians and housing advocates.

Read more at Crain’s New York Business

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