This morning, after several months of preparation, tenants at six buildings in Ridgewood, Queens entered Bankruptcy Court to make an official claim against their landlord, Steven Kates. Because of poor, inhabitable conditions, tenants are asserting that their landlord owes them money, as well as insisting on emergency repairs and relief.
As a result of organizing efforts leading to pressure being put on both Stabilis Capital (the lender) and Dafnonas Estates (the management company), repairs are getting done. Holes have been patched, smoke detectors have been installed, walls have been painted. Still, much is yet to be done. Katrina, a pregnant woman residing in 1894 Cornelia, for example, lives with an enormous hole in her bathroom (pictured above) which rains water every time the upstairs neighbor takes a shower. Worried about mold effecting her unborn baby’s health, Katrina is afraid to step foot in that section of the apartment. Why are the walls being painted in this building while Katrina is forced to live with emergency conditions?
Through bankruptcy court, tenants hope to force Stabilis and Dafnonas to the negotiating table and have a conversation about long term building preservation. Katrina and her neighbors have identified CATCH, a mutual housing nonprofit developer, as a group they would like to own their building. (From conversations with their attorneys, UHAB knows that Stabilis is not interested in long term ownership.)
The buildings are located in Ridgewood, Queens, which the New York Times has declared the new place for young Brooklynites to move. For this reason, Stabilis probably hopes to make a lot of money flipping these properties. Young hipsters (gentrifiers), who normally are willing to pay higher rents, are being pushed out of Brooklyn and across the border into Queens. As so often happens in situations like this one, long term tenants, like the ones in the 6 Stabilis Buildings, are feeling the squeeze. As tenant leader Denise Serrano told us a few weeks ago:
I grew up in Williamsburg, and thanks to rising rents my family was forced to move. I raised my children in this building, and on behalf of myself and my neighbors, I do not want to see that displacement happen again here.
When blogs like Brooklyn Mag are posting articles with the headline, “Should we all give up and move to Queens?” they should be aware that Ridgewood is not an just an affordable enclave for young artists, it’s home to many people — many people who are not, to put it mildly, “giving up.”