The Jewish Daily Forward published an article today written by UHAB Organizer Elise Goldin called “Fighting Jewish Slumlords Isn’t Anti-Semitic.” Inspired by the inflammatory media attention around slumlord Menachem Stark’s murder, she writes about the ways that religious Jews too often appear in NYC’s shady real estate business:
Through my work, I do a great deal of research to try and untangle the mess of who owns what property and who’s connected to whom in the real estate industry. And it’s not easy. Take 199 Lee Avenue, an address in the religious Jewish part of Williamsburg. It’s connected to literally hundreds and hundreds of distressed buildings. Entities with an address at 199 Lee touch all sides of any real estate deal — as owners, mortgagers, brokers — and it’s nearly impossible to connect the address to an actual person.
This Wednesday, we’re holding a tenant action in the neighborhood of Borough Park with tenants from 230 and 232 Schenectady in Crown Heights. The buildings are in some of the worst condition we at UHAB have ever seen: unbelievable leaks, ceilings caving in, and two electrical fires since they’ve been in foreclosure. Back in 2012, tenants actually won their organizing campaign: an non-profit group, MHANY, purchased the mortgages on the buildings with the goal of finishing the foreclosure and becoming owner. Unfortunately, the foreclosure process has moved at a glacial speed and even though MHANY holds the mortgages, no real work can be done until the foreclosure is finished. While tenants continue to live in dangerous conditions, the owners of the building are further stalling the foreclosure by marketing the buildings with hopes of paying off MHANY and making some money off the top.
Wednesday morning, we’re gathering to protest real estate broker, Sanford Solny, in front of his office in Borough Park to tell him and his investors to back away from this deal and let foreclosure case finally come to an end. This is an action to preserve affordable housing in Crown Heights, and to assert that tenants, not banks and landlords, should be determining what happens to their homes.
Every minute that Sanford Solny and his slumlord investor friends continue to treat these buildings like gambling chips, tenants continue to suffer. Join us in telling them to back off!
When: Wednesday, January 15th, 11 AM
Where: 3811 13th Ave, Brooklyn
Contact us at email@example.com or 212-479-3358
Working as a tenant organizer involves a lot of acronyms. This is the most important lesson I have learned so far in my first week of training as a tenant organizer with UHAB. HCR, HUD, CMBS, AEP, even UHAB itself are swirling in my brain in a massive linguistic confusion. Coming from Chicago, I moved here to New York City to participate in “Avodah: the Jewish Service Corps” like many other UHAB organizers before me. In addition to working, I will be participating in programs on issues of social justice and Judaism, and will have an enriching and insanely busy year. After college, I spent a year on the move: traveling in Israel/ Palestine, learning Spanish in Guatemala, and living in a multi-faith, social justice oriented retreat center.
This first week of training has been an overload of information on subjects which I haven’t really taken the time to learn before. The crew of knowledgeable organizers at UHAB has been training me on everything from how banks and mortgages work, how to run a meeting, to UHAB’s campaign history and where the best lunch spots on Wall Street are located. Hot topics like rent regulation in New York City and Predatory Equity are slowly beginning to make sense to me.
On my second day of training, I went to sit in on a tenant leader meeting at Putnam in Harlem, run by UHAB and our partner Tenants and Neighbors. Three buildings in this unit are potentially facing submetering, which would put the heat and electricity in each individual tenant’s bill, rather than a standard sum in tenants’ rent. These apartments currently have no way to control their heat temperature, but can only turn their electric heat system on and off. On top of that, the apartments also tend to have poor insulation, and so submetering could substantially raise tenants’ rents. Luckily, the buildings have strong tenant leaders who are motivated to have a loud voice in this process. As a first example of an organizing meeting, this meeting of leaders illustrated to me a best case scenario in how organized buildings with committed leaders can look.
Walking around my new neighborhood of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, I have started to take note of the housing there, wondering what type of buildings and what type of rent regulations or subsidy programs are in place. I hope this experience will help me develop a more critical framework for understanding housing and the way politics in New York City, how to be an effective organizer, and how to write bomb blog posts.