Elected officials, tenants and activists gathered outside a Park Slope building on Friday to announce a divestment campaign against an equity firm that has sought to force Brooklyn renters out of their apartments after buying up residential buildings during the pandemic.
The group is hoping to push the Texas Permanent School Fund, an organization designed to benefit that state’s public schools, to withdraw a recent $100 million investment from the equity firm NW1. The firm used the money to fund real estate entity Greenbrook Partners’ purchase of over 50 multifamily buildings in Brooklyn in recent months.
In dozens of instances, Greenbrook issued notices of lease non-renewal to tenants shortly after purchasing their properties. And residents in rent-regulated apartments, which offer eviction protections, say Greenbrook has offered them buyouts or turned adjacent units into hazardous construction sites, making their buildings nearly uninhabitable.
“Texas schools should not be funded by kicking Brooklynites out of their homes,” said Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander at the event outside 70 Prospect Park West, one of the properties purchased by Greenbrook.
“The people of Texas would not like it if the government of New York were making money by throwing the people of Texas out of their homes, and we don’t like it either.”
Lander, along with State Assembly Member Robert Carroll and Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, announced the delivery of a detailed memo to the fifteen members of the Texas State Board of Education, which controls the School Fund, outlining the impact of Greenbrook’s practices and asking them to withdraw BOE money from the project.
“In every case, the story is the same,” the memo says of Greenbrook’s buying spree. “Greenbrook’s business model is to evict rent-paying tenants from their homes, through a range of techniques including illegal tenant harassment and illegal construction.
The knowledge that the Texas Permanent School Fund’s involvement in the operation was particularly painful for 70 Prospect Park West tenant Carrie Newsom, who attended Texas public schools and then worked as a teacher there before moving to Park Slope over a decade ago.
“Pushing my little family out of our home for no good cause so they could flip our apartment for a huge profit, it felt like a deep betrayal,” said Newsom, who lives in the building with her partner and two young children.
Greenbrook has also aggressively pushed out commercial tenants in its properties; after lease negotiations failed between the firm and tenant D’Mai Urban Spa last year, Greenbrook sued the spa’s owner for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back rent.
The divestment memo represents the latest in what has become a multi-pronged fight against Greenbrook’s eviction efforts. Newsom and tenants of at least a dozen affected buildings have joined forces with advocacy groups to inform neighbors of their rights and discuss organizing tactics. And the city’s Department of Buildings, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and a city-state Tenant Harassment Task Force are all investigating Greenbrook’s practices.
Carroll, Lander, and tenant advocates are also calling on the state legislature to pass what’s known as the Good Cause Eviction Bill, which would prevent tenants from being evicted without a reason and would largely put an end to Greenbrook’s predatory practices. But the bill’s main sponsor in the State Senate, Brooklyn Senator Julia Salazar, has expressed pessimism about the likelihood that it will become law this year.
Neither Greenbrook nor the Texas Permanent School Fund responded to requests for comment.