By Akosua K. Albritton
On June 5, 2017, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) held a planning session at JACK. JACK is a small nonprofit theater located at 505½ Waverly Avenue on the southern border of Clinton Hill. This venue was the appropriate place for BAN’s meeting. JACK offers live performances and seats 50 people. The space offers community forums on “racial justice, police-community relations and gentrification”, as well as theatric and musical performances. Alec Duffy, a JACK co-founder, was on hand to open JACK and participate, to some degree, in the discussion.
BAN Director Imani Henry facilitated the discussion. The meeting included a strategic component. This reporter agreed to omit the strategic aspects of the meeting in this article. It can be explained that BAN is on record for using shaming tactics such as demonstrations, rallies, videotaping unannounced visits to building management offices and unscheduled visits to government agencies to demand habitable apartments, affordable rents and commercial leases. Henry explained, “The shaming brings to light social injustices that persist. These injustices destabilize households, reduce the number of small businesses operating on neighborhood commercial corridors and target young people of color for physical and mental victimization”.
Throughout Brooklyn, people are witnessing the assemblage of small buildings for conversion into one single multistory luxury apartment building. BAN’s shaming tactics have succeeded in keeping such longstanding businesses as Errol’s Bakery in business at the same address and ensures tenants get the needed repairs to building-wide and apartment-specific systems.
The meeting attendees were a cross of ages, gender and races who were experiencing the reality of rising rents and displacement. One woman associated with JACK discussed the need for agreed tactics prior to initiating a specific shaming event. It is a tribute to BAN’s organizing and coalescing abilities that this multicultural and intersectional body exists and sustains an esprit de corps.
An attorney (name withheld) raised the case to end the Urstadt Law which gives New York State legislature jurisdiction over New York City rent guidelines. Joe Lamport explains in the January 25, 2005 Gotham Gazette: “If you ask New York City housing advocates what one move would improve the lot of tenants in New York City, they would answer: Repeal of the Urstadt Law.” The state law, which then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller pushed through in 1971, and which Governor George Pataki strengthened in 2003, is named after Rockefeller’s housing commissioner, Charles Urstadt. “For more than three decades, it has effectively handcuffed the city when it comes to dealing with the main problems facing housing here — rents and evictions.” The attorney has allies in people like CM Jumaane Williams (CD 45) and NYS Assembly member Walter Mosley (AD 57) who have gone on record in September 2014 for the repeal of the law.
The next big event that BAN is organizing is the Brooklyn March against Gentrification, Racism and Police Violence. It is slated for September 9, 2017, from 12 PM to 4 PM. Families are encouraged to participate. The impetus for the march is that “neighborhoods are being torn apart by skyrocketing rents and terrorized by police brutality. Low- to middle-income New Yorkers are being priced out or displaced by gentrification while our city is being made over into a playground for the superrich. We say NO MORE”!
To learn more about the march’s route, speakers and after-march activities, readers can attend the June 16, 2017 planning meeting to be held at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at Solidarity Center NYC, located at 147 West 24th Street in New York City.