Crown Heights Tenants Protest Rent Hikes

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo joined dozens of concerned residents in front of their Schenectady Avenue and Union Street apartment building Saturday morning to protest feared rent hikes by the building’s new owners.

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Scores of residents and concerned housing advocates rallied in front of a Schenectady Avenue apartment building Saturday morning to demand protections for low-income tenants who fear they will soon be victims of illegal rent increases due to what they say is a “loophole” in the law.

Some 62 low-income families living in rent-stabilized Crown Heights apartments are facing imminent hikes that would double or even triple their rents, likely forcing their ouster. The increases are possible because of a “preferential rents” loophole, allowing landlords to conceal unlawful increases and engage in widespread rent fraud, protesters claim.

“The buildings are now in crumbling physical condition while the low-income, rent-paying tenants — leaders in the Crown Heights Tenant Union movement — are seeing unprecedented rental increases in one of Brooklyn’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods,” said Kerri White, director of policy and organizing for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.

Tenants at 285 Schenectady Ave. and 1646 Union St., the buildings at issue in Saturday’s protest, moved into their apartments decades ago with subsidies from the Federal Government’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).  In 2009, the buildings exited their subsidy programs and converted to rent-stabilized units. At the time, no protective measures were taken to ensure tenants’ safety and housing affordability, White claimed.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo appeared at the rally to support the tenants.

“They are doubling and tripling rents, while people don’t have gas and electricity on the coldest day of the year,” Cumbo said. “We are dealing with greedy entities. But what I’d like to say to them is that there is a movement growing in Crown Heights. I have never entered a fight I do not intend to win.”

Adams touched upon the impending sunset of the rent regulation laws in Albany, and the difficulty in renewing such protections in light of a Republican-led state Senate, as reason for the public to speak up and make elected representatives aware of the hardships faced by low-income tenants.

285 Schenectady Ave. and 1646 Union St. are owned by Renaissance Realty Company, a Brooklyn-based group that has recently bought upwards of 200 units of rent-regulated and affordable housing in the neighborhood. At the protest, Cumbo also criticized another company, Alma Realty, for attempting to remove about 700 units it owns near Prospect Place from rent regulation.

Brooklyn Brief has reached out to Renaissance Realty and Alma Realty, and can update this story if they respond.

13 Comments

  • 1. regulation is the problem wrote:

    1) supply and demand, demand grows and supply basically stays the same.

    2) building 20 stories is regulated out of possibility by zoning laws, cost of building is higher thanks to building codes and permits.

    Basically these unfortunate tenants are the “victims” of the very progressive, big government, anti market policies they support.

  • 2. swm wrote:

    #1: GREAT insight. However, how do we get those “victims” to understand what has happened? Flyers?

  • 3. gentryfication wrote:

    did anyone protest when the blacks moved in, made this previously beautiful neighborhood a nightmare to live in for over 40 years, forcing the previous generation of owners to sell their buildings at a fire sale?

    those guys want to keep paying their $200 / mo rent for another two decades when these apartments are renting for $2,000 / mo now?

    who is supposed to subsidize that – the new owners? the taxpayers?

    why do these tenants need to have special protections, privileges, and subsidies no one else in this country has?

  • 4. government against business? wrote:

    since when do government officials protest against legal business in the USA? They can try to enact new laws or regulations to prevent rent increases, but in their absense, how can they stop building owners from charging market prices for their apartments?

  • 5. Laurie Cumbo wrote:

    Greedy entities? Read JEWS. That’s who she means, whether they own these dumpsters or not. Remember her knockout comments?

    And note – they are protesting “FEARED” rent hikes – not actual deeds. Get a life, you troublemakers and be thankful you ain’t on the street with de brudders.

  • 6. Facts please! wrote:

    What’s the rent there now?

    What is it “threatened” to go up to?

    NUMBERS PLEASE: We can’t judge the fairness or unfairness if we don’t know what kind of prices we are talking about here.

  • 7. Loopholes aren't illegal wrote:

    If there’s a loophole in the law allowing the rent to go up, this is not an “illegal” rent increase. It’s legal.

    This group should go after whoever wrote the law this way (with the loophole), instead of calling landlords “greedy entities”.

    Then they should go about working on changing the law, to eliminate this loophole, if they want for rent increases like this to be considered truly “illegal”.

  • 9. Very sad to see it ... wrote:

    In these buildings also lives Jewish elderly , that can’t afford anything with 500 $ income …. The problem of landlords – to free the building ,renovate and rerent for high prices … The problem of tenants – no other city low cost rent available … The problem of the government – they will not pay the huge difference to the landlord after massive renovation …
    Don’t know who is right … But city doesn’t belong to hipsters or rich only , must be balanced …

    • 10. Carl Marx wrote:

      No, it does not need to be balanced.

      Did you ever hear of Carl Marx? How about communism?

      It is sad an unfortunate to see people displaced due to a changing landscape and cost increases. As a community we need to step in and help these people, but not out of an obligation on landlords, but as kind hearted individuals who open our pockets to help.

      But is there an obligation? Perhaps and moral one, but no, not an actual one.

  • 12. Citizen Berel wrote:

    These people and these protests are wrong. In the abstract, which is real.

    But in the end of the day, these are human beings living under the specter of homelessness and I empathize.

    I don’t think this is anti-Jewish. It’s well-placed fear.

    This is a human tragedy, not a political or legal bullet point.

    In the end, this scarcity is but a consequent of divine concealment. In zman bais rishon, ain kesef nechshav lemeumah.

    May the Moshiach be revealed immediately.

  • 13. Pinchas wrote:

    many can no longer afford CH, Anash will need to find a new affordable place to live.

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