Creating affordable housing is all well and good but the city should also keep existing cheap apartments from going the way of the dodo, said protesters at a march through Bushwick on Sunday.
Mayor DeBlasio’s pledge to build 200,000 new units of affordable housing in the next decade overlooks the fact that landlords are letting rent-regulated buildings rot, and in some cases actively sabotaging them, according to activists who are calling on the city to ramp up code enforcement against slumlords.
“We want to make sure the mayor doesn’t forget about people who already live in places,” said Jose Lopez, an organizer with the immigrant and worker advocacy group Make the Road New York.
The problem of landlords trying to force out tenants is particularly prevalent right now in Bushwick, Lopez said. Demonstrators, including councilmen Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick) and Carlos Menchaca (D–Red Hook), Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D–Bushwick), and Public Advocate Letitia James, tromped around the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, stopping at three addresses that they said exemplified the trend.
“The city needs to address the displacement of low-income families by landlords who purposely demolish units in an effort to convert them into market-rate apartments,” Reynoso said. “This is just not right and we are seeing it all over North Brooklyn, especially in Williamsburg and Bushwick.”
The rally and march were the latest in a string of actions by a coalition called Real Affordability for All, assembled to highlight housing issues ahead of the anticipated May 1 release of DeBlasio’s housing plan.
A report by Make the Road New York calls for the city to create stronger incentives for landlords to make repairs, come up with tougher penalties for landlords who violate the building code, and bolster protections for tenants facing dangerous conditions.
— with Danielle Furfaro