Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Preferential Rents = Displacement

crown heights tenant union May 19, 2016

from Natasha Creese, CHTU tenant leader and life long resident of 285 Schenectady Avenue: 

My affordable apartment was rented to my mother over 25 years ago with a "preferential rent." This loophole allows landlords to register stabilized rents with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) way above the going rate, and then offer them to tenants like me at a lower rate. Landlords like the new owner of my building, Renaissance Realty, then bide their time until the neighborhood gentrifies, and when it does, they snatch away our preferential rates and, effectively, our homes.

Renaissance Realty bought my building last April. Immediately after the purchase the landlord said to me: "Crown Heights is the new Manhattan. I bought this building to make money." Then, he more than doubled my rent, from about $990 a month to over $2,100.

And I'm not alone. I learned that my 61 neighbors were all facing similar hikes. I went to a Crown Heights Tenant Union meeting and I discovered that all across the city, tenants in rent-stabilized apartments are facing rent hikes that are far higher than the legal limit set by the Rent Guidelines Board every year. And major loopholes in the rent laws are the reason why.

I've watched Crown Heights change before my eyes. I've lived in my rent-stabilized apartment for over 25 years. I moved in as a child. We used to call the stretch of Union Street between Schenectady and Rochester Avenues "Dodge City," a reference to the perils of living in a crime- and drug- infested neighborhood. Now, things are different. Boutique stores, coffee shops, and bars line Franklin Avenue. And my mother's $990 a month apartment, where I am now raising my own children, is a bargain compared to what is being offered around me.

My building is home to 62 working-class families and most of them have lived in Crown Heights for decades. We built this neighborhood; we shouldn't have to leave because the neighborhood has changed. The state's rent stabilization laws are supposed to protect tenants in rent stabilized apartments from sudden and drastic rent hikes, but thanks to years of greedy landlords and corrupt politicians in Albany, the laws are not working.

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