Since 2000, the average market rents have doubled in neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Greenpoint (two of the neighborhoods most dramatically affected by the influx of affluent renters and purchasers) as high-end co-ops and condos have pushed out affordable housing. Throughout Brooklyn, tenants face increasing pressure from landlords looking to flip their apartments for affluent newcomers willing and able to pay 2-3 times the current legal rents. The burgeoning property values have also dramatically accelerated actions by landlords and management companies to push low-income families out of their homes. These illegal harassment tactics particularly target the most vulnerable longtime tenants: the elderly, those who are ill or disabled, and families lacking the education and/or language skills to defend their rights.
Brooklyn A partners with tenant associations, cooperatives, and other organizations to mobilize and garner a greater voice in the struggle to preserve affordable housing. We seek to preserve and increase affordable housing in order to provide stability and economic security to low-to-moderate income individuals and families in Brooklyn.
Attorneys work with 10 full-time tenant organizers at three of our community partner organizations: Southside United Development Corporation (Los Sures), St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, and the People’s Firehouse. We represent active tenants’ associations in buildings where landlords are seeking to empty affordable apartments by harassing tenants or denying basic services. Additionally, we represent more than 100 local tenant-owned cooperatives, assisting them in sustaining themselves as affordable housing for low-income tenants.
Our partnerships with local community organizations and coalitions push for justice and fair housing for Brooklyn residents. We have for many years represented organizations fighting to remove persistent racial quotas that discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans in Williamsburg’s public housing developments. Together with the community, Brooklyn A was successful in preventing the construction of a 47-story garbage incinerator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which would have bordered public and subsidized housing. We also worked to ensure that the rebuilding of the Williamsburg Bridge would not cause the relocation of large blocks of the community.
DIRECT CLIENT SERVICES
Brooklyn A collaborates with a network of community organizations throughout North Brooklyn in order to prevent tenants and their families from displacement. We provide on-going legal counsel to low-income co-ops to ensure that the co-ops are financially viable and the buildings are free of hazardous conditions. This work impacted over 4,000 residents in 2012 alone.
Our work involves a variety of innovative strategies:
- Pursue legal action to uphold both local and national fair housing laws. When litigation is necessary, attorneys represent tenant groups in Housing Court, help them prepare for testimony, document evidence, protect them from intimidation by their landlord and his or her attorney, and use legal expertise to ensure that judges uphold all judicial obligations in court proceedings. Many cases involve instituting an Article 7A Action, which enables landlords to be removed as property managers or owners from buildings they have neglected and replaced with a community-based organization or tenant association to act as a court-appointed administrator.
- Pursue impact litigation that achieve lasting effects in public policy and litigation, and positively impacts large segments of the community. When necessary, bring litigation to stop and/or force the redesign of re-zonings and takings that would exacerbate current displacement pressures. Currently, we serve as a member and advocate for the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition: a collaboration of local organizations and individuals suing the City regarding rezoning laws that allegedly permit racially and religiously discriminatory housing.
- Provide ongoing legal counsel to CBOs on tenant and affordable housing issues and to co-ops and HDFCs (including those that have already been established through Article 7A court decisions).
- Partner with CBOs on community planning and advocacy efforts to prevent tenant displacement and landlord abuse and to educate the public about affordable housing issues and Laws.
- Form and represent tenant groups through organizing. We work hand-in-hand with CBOs to recruit tenants to join group cases, educate community activists about housing laws and due process, and plan and attend advocacy events such as rent strikes and demonstrations.
We have partnered with CBOs for over 30 years to prevent some 12,000 housing evictions, and will continue these partnerships and various more:
- Bushwick Housing Independence Project
- Churches United for Fair Housing
- El Puente
- Save our Southside
- Neighbors Allied for Good Growth
- North Brooklyn Development Corporation
- People’s Firehouse, Inc.
- Southside United Housing Development Fund Corporation
- St. Nick’s Alliance
- United Neighbors Organization
- United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment
- Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (“BTCC”)
- Mobilization Against Displacement (“MAD”)
Brooklyn A has partnered with a unique coalition of community organizations to mount a concerted drive to protect the dwindling supply of affordable housing and prevent the large-scale displacement of vulnerable tenants. This Mobilization Against Displacement (MAD) aims to ensure that, as gentrification unfolds, Williamsburg and Greenpoint remain diverse and vibrant communities that are home to many poor and working-class families.
MAD is remarkable in bringing together all of the area’s community-based organizations and Catholic churches in a dynamic and collaborative initiative. The coalition includes North Brooklyn Development Corporation, Churches United for Fair Housing, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, The People’s Firehouse Inc., Southside United Development Corp. (Los Sures) and St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation (St. Nick’s Alliance), as well as Brooklyn A.
Brooklyn A has partnered with these organizations for over 30 years to prevent some 12,000 housing evictions. MAD was formed in 1999 to ensure that the impending waterfront rezoning would include community benefits, such as a decent proportion of affordable housing units, accessible parks and recreational facilities. The community fought hard and did wrench some concessions from the city and developers. But the overall impact of the rezoning has been to dramatically decrease the supply of affordable housing and unleash aggressive moves to displace the remaining tenants.
As the legal arm of the initiative, Brooklyn A provides much more than vigorous representation in the courtroom. Los Sures organizer Debbie Medina underscores Brooklyn A’s critical role in MAD: “If it wasn’t for Brooklyn A, none of our successes would have happened. Now, landlords who harass our tenants understand that they are not just going to back down — Brooklyn A is right there with them.”
MAD is waging building-by-building struggles to prevent the waterfront real estate gold rush from driving low-income families out of the community. This won’t be easy, but the community is determined, and, said Medina, “The lawyers at Brooklyn A are fighters.”
To view recent news on our partners and community coalitions, see Friends of Brooklyn A.
In 2012, Brooklyn A’s representation of co-ops and tenant associations involved 408 households, including: 10 low-income HDFC apartment building cooperative corporations, 24 tenant associations, 12 neighborhood-based nonprofit corporations, 2 neighborhood-based nonprofit day care centers, and 1 senior citizens center. We also represented the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition (BTCC), which has been involved in significant litigation. The 40 groups that make up the BTCC involve at least 100 residents per group, for a total of 4,000 adults.