Equality for Flatbush, a grassroots organization that advocates for affordable housing in our area, among other issues, just launched a campaign to organize residents who have lived in Flatbush for fewer than five years as part of an effort to educate neighbors about the impact of gentrification.
“The intent of this initiative is to bring new residents together, building by building, block by block, in solidarity against the skyrocketing rents and property grabs by developers that is transforming our neighborhoods,” Uliya Yshtaal, an Equality for Flatbush organizer who moved to the area in August of 2013, said in a press release.
The new collective of neighbors, which is called the New Flatbush Resident Community Group and is coordinated by Uliya, aims to connect neighbors in an effort to fight the hemorrhaging of affordable housing in our area. The group hopes to bring together people of all backgrounds, from race to socioeconomic status.
“In talking with long-term community members involved with Equality for Flatbush, I’ve learned that gentrification is a force that we, as new residents , play a role in,” Uliya said in the same release. “Developers, with the support of local politicians, are using classist and racist policies to push existing residents out, replace them with us, and make enormous amounts of money in the process.”
(It should be noted that a number of our elected officials, including Councilman Jumaane Williams and Borough President Eric Adams, have come to the area to address concerns about affordable housing, and both attended a Flatbush Tenant Coalition fundraiser at Bar Chord in December. Additionally, a number of legislators, including Williams and others, participated in a recent affordable housing march in the area.)
The loss of affordable housing in our neighborhood has long been a concern, and, with the state’s rent regulation laws set to sunset (and be renewed) in June, individuals and groups advocating for affordable housing in our neighborhood – and across the city – are raising their voices. Many of our neighbors have already done this, whether by marching in the streets in December or helping to raise money for the Flatbush Tenant Coalition.
In Flatbush, Trojniak went on to say, 70 percent of residents live in rent stabilized apartments, with these being “the source of affordable housing for the neighborhood.”
“But rent stabilization has been gutted over the last few years,” Aga continued. “It’s now a set of loopholes where landlords can dramatically increase rents… What’ we’re seeing in the neighborhood is large corporations buying up apartments in bulk, and they’re waging war on longterm residents.”
This push by landlords to force rent stabilized tenants from their buildings has resulted in the loss of about 3,500 rent regulated apartments in Flatbush between 2008 and 2011, Aga said – and, as she and other neighbors pointed out, this landlord harassment has included everything from withholding repairs to taking neighbors to housing court over being one month late in paying rent.
It is these kinds of actions that Equality for Flatbush members hope to prevent – or at least combat – by organizing neighbors.
Equality for Flatbush “recognizes that individuals are not necessarily the ‘root cause’ of gentrification–that it’s profit-driven corporate interests that are gobbling up affordable housing and making it into luxury apartments that no one in the community really wants or needs,” neighbor Gabe Radeka said in the press release.
“The developers who are making all the money behind the scenes want to turn residents against each other so they can keep at it and avoid responsibility,” Gabe continued. “Soon even people like me, who can generally afford market rent, will be displaced by wealthier and more affluent residents. Our job is to resist their narrative and stand together with long-time residents to fight against these corporate developers.”
Additionally, organizers said connecting neighbors will help to spur important dialogue about the changing neighborhood.
“New residents have expressed to me their sense of helplessness or guilt about the anger that is sometimes directed towards them by long-term residents,” Uliya said in the press release. “Everywhere we turn there are more indicators of the growing gentrification in Flatbush like boutique stores, fine dining restaurants, and expensive bars/cafes popping up and catering to new residents. People are afraid they could be displaced so of course their anger is justified.”
“That’s why we say to everyone channel your fears, guilt and anger into something positive and get involved in the struggle to save affordable housing,” the organizer continued. “It is time to take a stand. We need to work together.”
To find out more about the new initiative, you can email [email protected] or call (646) 820-6039.
All photos are from an affordable housing march in December.