Crown Heights tenants rally against apartment warehousing, unsafe conditions

State Senator Zellnor Myrie speaks in support of tenants
State Senator Zellnor Myrie speaks in support of tenants.
Charlie Dulik

Tenants at 1392 Sterling Place in Crown Heights rallied on Sunday to commemorate a year of being on rent strike to protest what they described as dangerous living conditions at their building.
They also vowed to pursue the takeover of the building as a tenant cooperative.
According to the non-profit Housing Justice for All, “for years, the building’s no-show landlord has failed to address serious disrepairs and kept numerous units vacant.”
Speakers at Sunday’s rally described the dangerous conditions they had been forced to live in, including a “serious rat infestation and a sewage overflow in the basement.”
“We want overhaul renovations from top to bottom. When it rains, it pours in my kitchen, straight onto my stovetop, and on my daughter’s bed too,” said Sam Oilett, a tenant on the fourth floor of the building.
Housing Justice for All said in a statement that the 23-unit building was sold to Iris Management in 2019, “who planned to deregulate units and raise rents to market rate.
“When changes to the rent laws banned deregulation later in the year, Iris attempted to back out of the deal,” it said. “Since then, it has been unclear who is responsible for the property, further complicated by the death of the landlord in 2021.
“Both Iris Management and the estate of the original landlord have consistently ignored tenants’ concerns,” Housing Justice for All said. “There are 489 open violations currently on file.”
Tenants at the rally described the various ways they had tried to get the landlord’s attention and failed.
“Some of these apartments have been vacant for ten years, and management has repeatedly. ignored the requests of elderly tenants to move downstairs. Now they say it will take money to fix up the vacant apartments—but where has our rent money gone for years? Clearly not to any upkeep in the building,” said Michelle Stamp, a tenant in the building whose family has lived there for 60 years.
In November of last year, Housing Justice for All said tenants began a rent strike to protest the conditions in the building.
“We need to pass the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act to help our buildings become a co-op. We are human beings, and we deserve a say in our housing and control over where we live,” said Yvette Stamp, a tenant in the building.
“Landlords never make excuses when it’s time to collect the rent, but have every excuse known to man when it comes to providing habitable conditions to earn that rent. Enough,” said State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who represents the 20th Senate District that encompasses Crown Heights.
“If bad actors refuse to provide safe housing, they should not be in the business of owning property, and it’s time we consider other models of ownership, like those provided in the Tenant Opportunity Purchase Act, which I have the honor of sponsoring in the state senate,” he added.
“My constituents deserve nothing short of the best, and there are few things better than safe, affordable housing,” Myrie continued.

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