Last Monday, Capital New York released results from their Housing Code Violation Tracker for December 2014. The tracker reports the buildings in the five boroughs that list the most housing code violations monthly. Not surprisingly, multiple buildings we work with made it on these lists. 285 Schenectady Avenue had the third highest code violations in New York City for that month. 1646 Union Street is reported to be one of the twenty buildings with a comprehensive litigation case issued by H.P.D.
What do these two buildings have in common? They are both owned by Renaissance Realty and they share a mortgage. Renaissance Realty bought both buildings at once in April of 2014. Over 60 long-term Crown Heights residents live in these two buildings and Renaissance Realty is doing their very best to push these families out of their homes. Not only are these buildings in terrible condition but Renaissance is exploiting a complicated loophole in the rent regulation laws to increase tenant’s rents anywhere from 30% to 120%.
Most of these tenants moved into their apartments based on their income eligibility – the buildings were subsidized by the federal government and the City until 2009. Renaissance’s neglect of building conditions along with their blatant attempt to displace low income people is reflective of the pattern of real estate development in Crown Heights right now. As the neighborhood gentrifies, speculators are pulling out all the stops to bring in new, higher paying residents.
Last November, residents of 285 Schenectady and 1646 Union Street organized an action in front of 285 Schenectady attended by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Member Laurie Cumbo and over fifty community supporters from the Crown Heights Tenant Union. They plan to have another action next month and are currently working with Brooklyn Legal Services to address the unjust displacement Renaissance is attempting. Despite Renaissance’s best efforts, none of the members of the tenant association have agreed to leave the two buildings. They are determined to stay and fight.
UHAB Organizers are also working with another set of buildings which made Capital New York’s violation tracker. The story is equally infuriating. The 3 Boro Pool includes 1221 Sheridan Ave — ranked as the building with the second highest code violations in New York City for December 2014. In April 2014, The Attorney General made an agreement with the owners, Westbrook and Normandy to clear all code violations in one year. Ten months later, 1521 Sheridan Ave still has 252 open violations. Other buildings in the portfolio include 2401 Davidson Avenue which was so cold last week that the leaks froze in tenants houses, and [link to the most recent blog post with the horrible Davidson video before this] and 709-715 Fairmount Avenue, where just this week tenants showed UHAB Organizers mold, leaks, and floors that are anything but structurally sound. The fact that 1221 Sheridan Avenue made the Capital New York violation tracker affirms what we already knew. Westbrook and Normandy, along with management company Langsam, are not complying with the Attorney General’s agreement and are not respecting tenants rights.