Brooklyn tenants take to streets

brooklyn_0423Brooklyn tenants and homeowners rallied on April 9 across the street from a high-rise luxury apartment building owned by the real estate development company Hudson Management.

In the photo, anti-gentrification organizer Alicia Boyd, of the Movement to Protect the People, urged the community to stop more luxury development so this affordable community can be preserved. “Do not compromise with politicians who allow tax cuts for these developers,” she said. Some months ago Boyd and others were arrested for blocking cement trucks making a delivery here.

The new building is designed to provide 254 luxury apartments in what is now a working-class community of mostly people of color. In order to obtain valuable tax breaks from the city, Hudson must set aside 51 apartments that are supposed to be “affordable” for working people. This means it is allowed to call its small studio apartments built for one person affordable, even though the minimum rent will be $1,850 a month. That number is based on the astronomically high “market rate” in New York City.

Some demonstrators say local elected politicians are in the pocket of the developers, while the developers claim they are helping provide affordable housing. They receive tax breaks without doing anything to address the growing housing crisis for the working class, which involves increasing homelessness, evictions and racial discrimination.

The protest was called by a number of tenant, civil rights and immigrant organizations to address the tax break given developers, called the 421a tax abatement program. This tax break is a bonus to rich developers, as it means a freeze on real estate taxes. This four-decade state program is up for renewal in June.

The Crown Heights Tenant Union explains that this tax break costs the city $1 billion annually, without adding any real affordable housing. The $1 billion could annually fund 100,000 rent-subsidy vouchers worth $10,000, which would help Brooklyn’s large working class. The demonstrators shown here shouted “421a has got to go!” as they moved from the sidewalk to occupy Flatbush Avenue. Forced by police back to the sidewalk, they grew even more united and determined, chanting, “Housing is a right — fight, fight, fight!”