As Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza continues eviction proceedings against one of the community’s oldest grass roots organizations, a City Council member from outside the district said he is willing to mediate to resolve the issue.
Restoration Plaza was established during the height of the Civil Rights Movement with the help of Bobby Kennedy under the mandate that local grass roots activists and policymakers work together to build the community.
Among the charter members involved in Restoration’s original funding was the late Korean War Veteran and Civil Rights activist Sonny Carson, who also founded the Committee to Honor Black Heroes (CHBH), which Restoration has been trying to evict since Jan. 30 for allegedly not paying rent.
“Sonny had an arrangement (with Restoration) and this should not be in court,” said East New York City Councilman Charles Barron. “I will lend any influence, time and energy in working things out. They (CHBH) are a viable organization in our community and have done great work.”
Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilman Al Vann, who represents the district and was active during the federal Restoration initiative in 1967, refused comment on the issue.
According to court papers, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) is booting the nonprofit because their lease expired on Jan. 14, 2012, and they are exercising their right to not renew it.
But CHBH Chief Executive Officer Ali Lamont maintains Restoration Plaza is kicking them out because of the organization’s strong grass roots outreach to those struggling under economic hardship in the community.
“The purpose of the Restoration Development Corporation is to uplift the people of this community and they’re hurting the people,” said Lamont. “They’ve turned the plaza into a gated area for private corporations. They closed the bathroom in the entrance and the skating rink in the back.”
BSRC spokesperson Dyrnest Sinckler responded in a previous story on the issue that the current eviction proceedings are the culmination of a long-running dispute that has not been amicably resolved.
“Eviction proceedings have been commenced because CHBH has failed to pay rent and comply with basic safety and security regulations typical for an office complex like Restoration Plaza,” said Sinckler.
Last week in landlord/tenant court, Judge Wavny Toussaint issued a third continuance until April 23 to give CHBH more time to get an attorney.
Restoration Development Corporation attorney Martin Tenenbaum said even if Carson had an agreement with Restoration that doesn’t mean they can stay in their office rent-free.
“Why did they sign a lease if you don’t pay rent?” asked Tenenbaum. “I walk in when the facts are already set. If they (CHBH) are claiming they have some documentation that they shouldn’t pay rent then I’m all ears, but from what I’m hearing there’s nothing cohesive.”