Queens and Bronx Tell Stabilis Capital What They Need for their Buildings!

Tenants have been trying to get their voices heard by Stabilis Capital, the mortgage holder on their distressed buildings in Ridgewood, Queens and Hunts Point, Bronx (among others).  Stabilis has been purchasing mortgage notes on buildings like these throughout New York City, and it’s time to determine what their plans are for the buildings.  Will Stabilis take responsibility for the mortgages they’ve purchased?  Will they ensure that the the next owners of the properties will be more responsible than the last? Or will they sell the buildings to the highest bidder, with no concern for the tenants who currently suffer in unhealthy living conditions?  

Tenants from Ridgewood and Hunts Point have written to Stabilis to express who they want to be the next owner of their buildings.  In both cases, tenants demand that a major rehabilitation is completed, and the buildings remain affordable for current residents.  We hope that this meeting is productive, and that the tenants’ voices will be heard!

Here is the letter from tenants from Hunts Point:

We are tenants living at 836 Faile St. As you may be aware, our building is in foreclosure and is in horrible condition. There are currently 146 violations recorded with HPD on 36 units, and over 1/3 of the building is vacant. We suffer with rats, mold, leaks, plumbing issues, bed bugs, and more. Tenants are reluctant to call HPD due to the threats of the landlord and the workers towards us.   

We are writing to ask that you sell our building to an HPD approved developer with the experience and commitment to rehabilitate our building. We are working with Getz Obstfeld from Community Development Inc. who has made an offer to you for the building.  He has completed a scope of work, is working with HPD, and has detailed plans to bring the building into good condition.

We cannot continue to live like this. Our neighbors and children suffer from asthma, which is only worsened by the rats and mold. We live without adequate security and feel unsafe in our own homes.  Please sell the building at a responsible price to a developer who will preserve our homes for the long term.

Here is the letter from tenants in Ridgewood, Queens:

We are tenants living at 1821 and 1896 Cornelia Street, 1726, 1675 and 1673 Woodbine, and 18-14 Linden Street. As you are aware, the mortgage on our building is severely overleveraged, the owner is in bankruptcy, and conditions in our homes are terrible. There are currently over 550 HPD code violations on the 36 units. We suffer from rats, mold, leaks, and both negligence and harassment from the management company. The few repairs that have been made have mostly come from HPD intervention.

We are writing to ask that you sell our buildings to an HPD approved developer with the experience and commitment to rehabilitate them. Because we are have maintained our buildings on our own for so long, we have identified a mutual housing group which would allow our Tenant Association to remain involved and in charge of the buildings. We are working with Ken Wray at Community Assisted Tenant Controlled Housing (CATCH). CATCH has completed a Capital Needs Assessment of our properties and has determined they need over $2 million in repairs to keep them habitable and affordable for the long term.

We cannot continue to live like this. Our neighbors and children suffer from severe health problems, which are only worsened by the rats and mold. One of our members is suffering from cancer and associated chemotherapy treatments; the conditions in our homes threaten her weakened immune system.

We understand that you are meeting with our elected officials on Monday, July 1st to discuss your plans for these buildings. We sincerely hope that CATCH’s forthcoming offer will be on the agenda.


UHAB & NYC Tenants Want to See You In Court!

peopleJoin us as we raise our voices in front of Bankruptcy Court. Let private equity firms know that ‘Housing Is a Human Right!’ 
This Wednesday, June 19, Tenants from Queens and the Bronx, along with advocates and community members will be rallying against the private equity company Stabilis Capital Management.In Stabilis-controlled buildings in the Bronx and Queens, low income tenants are suffering from unlivable conditions. In order to preserve affordable housing, tenants are demanding that Stabilis sell their homes to responsible owners NOW!

Join UHAB & Tenants from Across New York City in Telling Stabilis:

Affordable Housing is a Human Right!


Rally against Stabilis Capital Management.


Wednesday, June 19th, at 10:00 AM


Steps of Bankruptcy Court

1 Bowling Green, Manhattan.

(4/5 to Bowling Green, 1 to South Ferry, J/Z to Broad Street, R to Whitehall.)



Artists of a South Bronx Hip-hop Collective are Evicted

After being evicted, hip-hop artists participate in an open-mic outside of RDAC-BX.
After being evicted, hip-hop artists participate in an open-mic outside of RDAC-BX.

The Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDAC-BX) is a community space in the South Bronx comprised of 25 artists, teachers and organizers. Established by brothers Gonzalo and Rodrigo Venegas in 2008, the space was converted from a sugar factory into an arts center. Over time, the center has evolved into a Hip Hop Community Center, offering monthly open mic nights, media-making workshops, and a “radical library.” These activities and amenities draw in 500 to 700 kids from Mott Haven and Hunts Point each month, giving them an opportunity to channel their creativity and organize.

Last month, the collective was evicted from their home at 478 Austin Place in Hunts Point on non-payment and vandalism charges. According to DNAinfo, the collective owed back rent dating to September 2012, leaving them over $10,000 in debt. The non payment is due to a dispute: the landlord, Joseph Pogostin, proposed a $1,000 rent increase (from $1,400/month to $2,400/month.) Unable to pay the increased rent and maintain their programs, the Venegas brothers chose to not accept Pogostin’s proposed renewal lease.

Rooftop political graffiti has also been a point of contention. Many of the collective members believe that the eviction case is partially motivated as an attack against their politics. The landlord, however, claims otherwise.  In a City Limits article, the landlord claims that the collective is responsible for instigating the newly created graffiti in the neighborhood. Rebutting the accusation, a collective members insists, “We were always having strong dialogues with any of our youths or individuals who came through our doors about respecting our neighborhood.”

Like many NYC neighborhoods, the South Bronx has been gentrifying rapidly: rents have skyrocketed and new, middle-income tenants have moved into the area. RDAC-BX’s rent increase and subsequent eviction speak to the intersection of gentrification and the criminalization of hip-hop in NYC neighborhoods.  In the mainstream media, hip hop is seen as a threatening genre of art, riddled with violence, illicit drug use, and misogyny. But hip-hop can also be a transgressive and subversive medium which attempts to dismantle oppressive structures and demand liberation. At the RDAC-BX, hip-hop gives youth a voice. The gentrification of the neighborhood – experienced by the RDAC-BX by their landlord’s attempt to raise rent – is threatening hip hop’s positive impacts on the community.

Since the eviction, collective members and allies have banned together in protest. On the first Friday of March, when the collective intended to have their monthly open-mic night, members still gathered for the show and held it outside of their building. Taking a note from Venezuela’s political history, one of the collective members wrote a song entitled, “Work Like Chavez,” which protests the eviction of RDAC-BX. Here are the song’s opening lines:

“I can’t front, I’m upset that they took our buildin’/ Next thing the Comandante man I know they killed him/ Something goin’ on, I gotta read the signs/Somethin’ telling me that it’s about that time/ Time to step it up cause I smell sulfur/ Still smell the money in this capitalist culture”

RDAC-BX has also started a campaign to pay for a new space. To support their organizing efforts as well as preserve creative and accessible spaces in the South Bronx, click here to donate.

836 Faile St: Still Dealing with Same Old Thing, but Tenants Continue to Organize!

Mural in Hunts Point, Bronx
Mural in Hunts Point, Bronx

836 Faile St. is located in Hunts Point in the Bronx.  This neighborhood has been historically cut off from the rest of the city, suffering from extreme environmental injustices as a result of the highway that runs through it and the high levels of pollution from buses and trucks.  There is also amazing activism and organizing taking place out of organizations such as The Point and BAAD.

When I first visited 836 Faile St. (it was in foreclosure with Astoria Federal Savings Bank), I didn’t know what to expect.  The neighborhood’s reputation made me nervous to see what type of conditions the tenants were living in and sadly, when I arrived at the building, it was a pretty frightening scene.  Tenants complained of not having consistent heat/ hot water, horrible rat infestations, a lack of a live-in super (which is against the law), and an aggressive landlord.  Even more, tenants told us the water in their apartments had to be filtered or boiled, otherwise it made them sick. Seriously? In New York City?

Asher Neuman was and remains the landlord of the building, even though it was in foreclosure for years, and it is still uncertain about who will be the owner moving forward (he filed bankruptcy but now it appears he has withdrawn his case). At the time when we started organizing, the Work Advantage program had just ended.  People were being evicted left and right.  Asher Neuman was aggressive about eviction, and there was a real sense of fear in the building that they could be next. He would threaten tenants that if they called 311, they wouldn’t receive any repairs in the future. Mr. Neuman would choose favorites and repair exclusively their apartments, while ignoring others.  (All these tactics continue today).

In March of 2012, Stabilis Fund II, a private equity company, bought the debt on the building from Astoria.  When I spoke to Joe Tuso from Stabilis Fund, he admitted to me that someone had simply driven by the building to make sure it existed.  No one had stepped foot inside the building to see the atrocious conditions tenants were living in- clearly Stabilis Fund II is about making money, not about stabilizing and preserving affordable housing for tenants.

Currently, 836 Faile st. has 127 violations in 36 units, though probably only a third of the units are occupied.  Tenant leaders have been evicted, other tenant leaders have moved out, but many dedicated tenants remain and are committed to organizing and improving their living situation.  Tonight, we will be meeting with tenants and filling out papers to file a group HP Action against MHM Equities, Asher Neuman’s entity which owns the deed to the building.  Stay tuned for continued organizing efforts against Asher Neuman and Stabilis Fund II!

A Green Future for Formerly Distressed Buildings

Workforce Housing Advisers, the group that helped save 1520 Sedgwick , the Birthplace of Hip-Hop, is upping their ante in the Community Development world in the Bronx by moving beyond developing and preserving decent, safe affordable housing and starting a project that will benefit not only the tenants but the whole community in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx.

This was all started by a group of horribly distressed basically abandoned buildings located at 16, 920, 924, 928, and 935 Kelly Street. These buildings were all put in the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program (AEP) in 2007, meaning they were among the 200 worst buildings in NYC. The properties only continued to decline from there. But now, Workforce Housing stepped in, bought the debt, finished foreclosure and has begun a $16 million renovation of the properties with financing that ensures they will remain affordable in the future.

Considering their past exploits, this is merely par for the course for Workforce Housing. However, with Kelly St. they are taking a step further and initiating a project that will benefit the tenants as well as the greater community. The project is called Kelly Street Green, and its goal is to provide support for a healthy, fresh food purveyor in a commercial space in the Kelly Street buildings. The project is currently requesting proposals from interested parties, and a committee (that includes yours truly) will help determine who will ultimately run the space. The store will sell produce from local farms as well as the community garden adjacent to the properties. This project will be a huge gain for the community of Hunts Point which is often considered a “food desert” meaning it is extremely difficult for people in the community to acquire quality groceries.

Even better, as the Daily News reports, the space will be leased at a substantial discount and will receive up to $150,000 in start up grants. The person/group selected will also receive a rent free apartment in one of the buildings.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, or just want to find out more about this project visit kellystgreen.com. We’re excited to participate in this innovative project, and are looking forward to hearing about your ideas!

Friday News Round Up!

Well, it’s Friday and you know what that means…it’s the Friday News Round Up!

1. In a hilarious turn of events, Justin Beiber and girlfriend Selena Gomez have entered into the nation’s debates on immigration.  Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) , the chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, spoke to congress on Wednesday about the flaws of the Supreme Court ruling on anti-immigrant law SB1070.  Here’s what Representitive Gutierrez said, as told by the NYDaily News:

“These young people have overcome their very different national origins and become apparently a happy couple,” Gutierrez said as stood beside the photos of Bieber and Gomez. “I’m sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country.”

“Oh, wait a minute. I’m sorry,” Gutierrez added. “Because I’m not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards. Actually, Ms. Gomez of Texas has helped Mr. Bieber of Canada learn about his adopted country. Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers.”


2. Fresh Direct, the grocery delivery service,  announced plans to move forward with its expansion into Hunts Point despite large-scale community protest.  While the company defends itself by declaring it will help with job growth in the community, it’s only recently (as a result of massive criticism) that the company agreed to deliver to Bronx neighborhoods  besides Woodlawn and Riverdale and accept Food Stamps.  More importantly for the community, however, is the amount of pollution and traffic that the expansion will bring to the already environmentally unhealthy community.  Monxo Lopez, a leader of South Bronx Unite, told the New York Times that:

“Any project that brings pollution — visual, noise or air pollution — we are against,” Mr. Lopez said. “We know the need for jobs and economic development in the area, but we know there are other ways those goals can be achieved.”

3.  What does an an actually integrated city look like?  A fascinating article by Emily Badger in the Atlantic Cities takes a look at the recent claim that American Cities are less segregated than ever before.  In a research study, Richard Wright, Steven R. Holloway, and Mark Ellis produced a series of maps showing the shifts in diversity and segregation in dozens of U.S. cities.  In analyzing the research, Badger writes that:

Many cities are seeing an increase in integrated neighborhoods and an increase in segregated ones at the same time…The time sequence above shows that much of the all-white Washington suburban region has now become moderately diverse. But the dark green area (black neighborhoods with scant diversity) has expanded, too, to the east of the city.

Check out the map sequences which demonstrate shifts in diversity and segregation based on state or metro area here.

4. In case you’ve been in a coma for the past day and a half, the US Supreme Court deemed the Affordable Health Act (or ObamaCare) constitutional!  Hooray! If you’re curious about how this impacts you directly, check out this little game from Obama’s website. In a nutshell, the act changes the way that the corrupt health care system functions and deems it illegal to deny specific types of patients affordable care.  It makes it a requirement, when possible, for everyone to buy into health care, and penalizes you through taxes if you don’t do it.  We’d just like to just leave you with this quote (as written in the NYTimes):

“Although an individual might buy a car or a crown of broccoli one day, there is no certainty she will ever do so,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. “And if she eventually wants a car or has a craving for broccoli, she will be obliged to pay at the counter before receiving the vehicle or nourishment. She will get no free ride or food, at the expense of another consumer forced to pay an inflated price.”

Have a great weekend!