Video: Crown Heights Tenant Union rally

Here is an amazing video of the Crown Heights Tenant Union’s first rally back in February, created by CHTU member Alex Roesch and Hunter Steinman. As Donna Mossman recounted in her Surreal Estate reflection piece after the rally, “It was freezing cold that Friday morning, but our hearts and our souls were on fire”.

We’re looking forward to even better energy (and warmer weather) at our next rally on June 7th. Stay tuned!

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Tenants of 1058 Southern Blvd. Protest Eviction Notices!

Last week, the tenants of 1058 Southern Blvd gathered for a protest in front of the Bronx Housing Court. Check out this video in which tenants demand that the housing court respect their rights!

Landlords Strike Back!

When buildings are in bad shape, landlords regularly cast themselves as innocent victims who would make repairs but whose hands are tied by either low-paying, barbaric tenants or excessive city regulations. Recently, we’ve seen landlords go so far as to blame mold, fallen ceilings, and failed plumbing on tenants’ bad parenting. The fact that a landlord can, with a straight face, blame tenants for such pervasive problems is so insulting it is laughable.

Recently, our allies at CASA saw landlord Chestnut Holdings strike back in a different way. When the community group brought tenants to protest the major Bronx landlord, Chestnut held a competing rally across the street. The crowd at the pro-landlord rally included managers and contractors for the company, i.e., many people who are on the landlord’s payroll.

Thankfully, it has been difficult for the major Bronx landlord to beat organized tenants at their own game. Earlier this month, a CASA-led coalition delivered a petition. The petition was signed by over 300 tenants from all over the Bronx and demanded consistent heat and hot water, quality repair work, regular extermination, better security, and an end to fees and rent hikes. Chestnut, in turn, distributed a petition naming organizers as “intimidators and rabble-rousers.” Just 28 people signed it.

While landlord antics may be amusing, tactics like this are an all too common means of pitting tenant-against-tenant or tenant-against-HPD in order to weaken organizing efforts and divide and conquer. Beware! The tenants that we work with recognize that these antics as petty and refuse to withstand such divisive measures. We will continue to fight to elucidate these unscrupulous practices and uphold tenants’ rights!

A Look Inside Tenants’ Protest at Lone Star Funds

On September 27, 2012 tenants from Inwood and Washington Heights visited the New York offices of predatory equity company Lone Star Funds. Check out this great video of tenants fighting for their homes!



To join tenants in this important fight, click here and sign our petition to Lone Star Funds. Please share this video and this petition with your friends. It is vital that Lone Star Funds hear tenant concerns and stop speculating on affordable housing in Northern Manhattan.

Washington Heights and Inwood Tenants Protest Lone Star Funds!

There are plenty of reasons to protest Lone Star Funds. If you’re from Oregon, you may be pissed that their risky investment practices are putting your retirement in jeopardy.  Or if you’re from Korea, you may be upset that they bought a massive amount of Korean Exchange Bank stocks, only to make a short sale and triple their profit on the backs of union workers. (And even if you’re not from either of these places you may still be mad!)

If you’re a New Yorker, you should be pissed that Lone Star Funds has a habit of buying up loans on distressed buildings, filing for foreclosure and then selling for a massive profit. They do this regardless of real rents, building conditions, or tenant concerns. But this morning, tenants from the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods of Manhattan are telling Lone Star Funds they have had ENOUGH. Tenants from 16 buildings in Northern Manhattan will be marching on the New York offices of the Texas-based private equity company, armed with signs that read, “Don’t Mess With Tenants!” They are protesting the firm’s predatory investment practices and demanding a role in discussions about the future of their buildings.

As frequent readers of our blog know, tenants from these buildings in Washington Heights and Inwood have lived for years under a harassing and negligent landlord, Vantage Properties. Now, tenants are concerned that the actions of Lone Star Funds will allow their homes to be re-overleveraged and sent into disrepair once again. These buildings are home to 826 families – over 2,000 New Yorkers.

Washington Heights and Inwood are, in realtor parlance, “up and coming neighborhoods.” That’s code for gentrification. Join tenants this morning to fight to keep Northern Manhattan affordable!!

Queremos Preservación, No Mas Especulación!

What: Protest again private equity company Lone Star Funds

When: Thursday, September 27th at 11:30 AM

Where: 888 7th Avenue, New York, NY

The Real Deal: “Group protests Cuomo agenda at REBNY’s 115th banquet”

 

The Real Estate Board of New York’s annual banquet — the most high-profile event of the year for the industry — last night was marred by the shouts of protesters.

A group of about 30 people inside the New York Hilton, where the glitzy event was being held, chanted: “Hey you millionaires, pay your fair share!”

Before being escorted off the property by hotel staff, the protesters handed out fliers stating their opposition to the Committee to Save New York, a group of business leaders formed in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign to oppose tax increases, reduce the size of government and reform Medicaid and pensions for public employees.

Donors to the committee include a number of prominent real estate figures, including Tishman Speyer Properties and the Durst Organization. Tishman Speyer’s Rob Speyer is the co-chair of the committee’s board of directors, which also includes REBNY President Steven Spinola and REBNY Chairman Mary Ann Tighe. Tighe, Spinola, Rob Speyer and Douglas Durst all attended the banquet. Cuomo, the Durst Organization and Speyer were not immediately available for comment.

The Committee to Save New York is “a farce,” said protester Pamela Brown, who is a member of East Harlem-based Community Voices Heard, a group that works with low-income families in organizing campaigns to influence policy. “Cuomo is in bed with REBNY, but we know his trickery.”

 

To continue reading, click here.

Occupy Wall Street: Our Perspective

Two weeks ago, Occupy Wall Street formed as a group of unidentified youth with unclear demands, poor media attention, and with no support from local New York politically left groups.  Mostly it was an inconvenience to us at UHAB, with Wall Street blocked off to prevent protesters from getting too close to the NY Stock Exchange.  Rather than dissipate with time and rain and mass arrests, the protest has grown in bodies, energy, and perhaps even credibility.  Following the infamous occupation of the Brooklyn Bridge that led to over 700 arrests, Occupy Wall Street has become a force to be reconciled with.

What are their demands?  Who is organizing it?  How long will they stay out there?  Walking down Broadway past the protesters, one can hear the snickering of bankers and corporate folks.  “They’re just mad because they can’t get jobs” I heard one banker laugh to a friend.  “They say it’s a movement.  A movement,” joked another.

But to me, the exciting part of Occupy Wall Street is that it is a movement- and a growing one.  The organizing structure of the protest is through a General Assembly, in which anyone is able to speak their minds, participate in the consensus decision making process, or join a working group.  Rather than begin the protest with a list of demands and top-down strategies, Occupy Wall Street is working on forming its demands collectively, and in the meantime allows people the opportunity to experience real democracy.  Art supplies, a library, the constant flow of free food, and donated tents and sleeping gear is readily available to any and all who enter the plaza.

Over the past week, celebrities such as Cornel West, Russell Simmons and Susan Sarandon have shown up to demonstrate their support for the protest.  The labor and left movement is also begining to back the protest, lending experience, local knowledge, as well as more concrete ways to show solidarity against corporate greed.  Today protesters are joining the Teamsters Local 814 to show support for the unionized art handlers who have been locked out of Sotheby’s for 8 weeks while struggling to negotiate for improved conditions.   New York teachers this weekend participated in a “grade in” in which teachers from all over the city went down and graded papers in the plaza to show their solidarity with the protest.

As an organization that works against banks with irresponsible lending practices like New York Community Bank, UHAB understands Occupy Wall Street’s stance against corporate greed.  Through our organizing, UHAB envisions a type of world other than one where banks and wealthy investors profit while damaging communities.  Unions, immigrant rights groups, and other politically left groups of New York are putting their energy behind Occupy Wall Street, and are organizing a march on Wednesday at 4:30 from City Hall to Zuccotti Park.  We will be there marching!  Will you join us?

To follow the movement, visit www.occupywallstreet.org. To see the faces behind the protests, visit wearethe99percent.tumblr.com.