Happy Friday, from UHAB Organizers. It was an eventful week for us, with tenant meetings at two of the Vantage buildings in foreclosure and a couple other buildings in foreclosure with Flushing Savings Bank in Brooklyn. Thanks to Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez and Speaker Christine Quinn for their support at meetings this week.
Today we’re giving you something of a “news roundup.” Things that happened this week that we liked, things that made us angry, and some things we just found interesting. Enjoy!
- The New York Times released a short documentary, “The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk,” that focuses Tyquen Brehon of Brooklyn, who relates his experiences of being stopped more than 60 times before the age of 18. The film is interwoven with facts and figures about the controversial stop-and-frisk program. This is the perfect documentary to watch to get you fired up for Sunday’s march against the controversial program. The march will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 17 at 110th Street between 5th Avenue and Lenox Avenue, and from there will travel south to 5th and 79th.
- In Brooklyn, a landlord was charged with manslaughter in the deaths of five tenants due to fire. Though the building was set aflame as a result of arson, courts determined the landlord shared responsibility in the deaths because “he owned, maintained and made money from a building with illegal subdivisions that blocked tenants’ ability to escape in a deadly fire.”
- There are about 1,000 articles on the web right now about President Obama’s announcement on immigration policy, which allows young undocumented people with no criminal record to be eligible for deferred action and potentially work visas. This is a big step forward in terms of creating opportunities for undocumented people and allowing migrants to live with freedom from fear. We still have a long way to go. You can read the press release from the White House at CNN.
- This week, Nona Willis Aronowitz published “How the Recession Made Me a Gentrifier in My Home Town” at The Atlantic Cities. Her article is a somewhat personal piece about growing up in Park Slope and Greenwich Village and being pushed out of those neighborhoods to where she now lives, in Harlem, as a white woman. She writes, “Am I a gentrifier of Harlem if it’s one of the few New York neighborhoods I can afford? It’s not as if I can move back to my old stomping grounds, now populated by six- and seven-figure earners. Yet in my current location, I’m still pushing out even lower-income residents.”
- Word-Up Bookstore in Washington Heights is seeking $10G in the next 10 days (now 5 days!) in order to keep its doors open, the New York Daily News reports. We discovered this great community bookstore while surveying the Vantage/Lone-Star buildings in foreclosure. Until earlier this year, Word-Up enjoyed the generosity of their landlord, a major benefactor to the project who allowed them to stay in their storefront rent free for an extended period of time. (That period of time is now over.) Their landlord is Vantage Properties. To us, their sponsorship is disingenuous – an halfhearted jab a catering favor with communities they have consistently attempted to displace. But, it seems clear that without Vantage, Word-Up would have shuttered their doors long ago. This story, like Tahl-Propp for Kids, is symbolic of the ways that lines are easily blurred in large scale community development. Or it’s symbolic of the ways in which bad landlords attempt to manipulate communities into welcoming them in. Your choice. In the end, does this excuse their behavior towards their residents? We don’t think so.