Outside of the Flatbush Public Library on Linden Street is a small camera crew of three people filming 70-year-old Brighton Beach resident Efrain Aviles.
Standing in front of an East Flatbush housing complex, Mr. Aviles repeats the words in front of the camera, while holding the sign reading #NoEvictionZone:
“ I pledge to speak out when landlords or management companies mistreat tenants, illegally raise the rent, avoid making repairs and other forms of harassment in my neighborhood. I will do everything in my power to support my neighbors so we can save our homes.
“I pledge to fight back against NYPD harassment and violation of the civil rights of my neighbors and myself through documenting and reporting police harassment or brutality to my local cop watch group or an anti-police brutally organization. Gentrification and police harassment go hand in hand.”
#NoEvictionZone is one of the latest campaigns by Equality for Flatbush, that campaigns against police repression and for residents that are being priced out of their apartments. A main goal of the campaign is to create solidarity among tenants living where the real estate market is viewed as most desirable to emphasize that they are not alone in being subjected to landlord harassment nor police harassment.
As Victor Moses, an activist and organizer affiliated with Equality for Flatbush said “we’re talking to community members; most of them are too afraid to even talk out about any landlord harassment because they’re afraid of getting thrown out of their buildings. This pledge is to highlight that you’re not alone. It’s about getting neighbors to start talking to each other, to understand that they have each others’ backs.”
Currently, NYPD’s Broken Window Policy enables the NYPD to question the actions of any individual or actions in a home that may potentially lead to greater criminal activity. Any investigation by the NYPD provides an easier pathway for tenant harassment by landlords: “Where neighborhoods are being [gentrified], you see the NYPD enforcing broken window codes much more rigorously. We are getting a lot of noise complaints, a lot more loitering complaints, normal behavior as far a we’re concerned” said Moses.
“Right now Equality for Flatbush does have the stance that the NYPD is occupying person of color neighborhoods, all over the city, but specifically here in Brooklyn where the real estate market has heated up in the way that it has”said Moses.
This is none more plain to see than in Bushwick. A 2014 survey of the number DUI checkpoints that the NYPD had in place conducted by Flatbush for Equality found that there were 33 checkpoints in Brooklyn, whereas only one checkpoint was found in all of Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens combined.
The survey further found that there were 21 vehicle safety checkpoint in Bushwick alone where people were arrested. Minorities are often the main target of these police checkpoint searches. Heavily policed areas and neighborhoods where the ‘broken window policy’ is enforced the highest in the city are the very same area’s that have experienced the highest real average rent changes.
According to the statistics released in 2014 by the NYC Comptroller report, The Growing Gap: New York City’s Affordable Housing Challenge, between 2000-2014, the neighborhood of Bushwick experienced a real average rent change of 52 percent, with some rents, for example, jumping from $684 to $1028 in one month. Neighboring Bedford Stuyvesant experienced a real average rent change of 46.8 percent, going from $697 to $952.
A rise in real average rent coincides with statistics from a 2014 Brooklyn Community District Profile that found a 141 rate of pre-foreclosure notices (per 1,00 1-4 family and condo properties) increases occurred in 2013 and a 85 rate of pre-foreclosures occurring in 2014. At the same time the household income distribution for incomes with $60,000 and less decreased between 2011-2013 against their 2000 counterparts. Income distribution coincides directly with the change in racial and ethnic composition were percentages of African-American and Hispanic populations are down 5 percent and 3 percent respectively [from 2000], while the white population increased by 8 percent.
These statistics backup what anyone who has lived in Brooklyn for years could tell you- gentrification is on the rise. Rise in income levels, decrease in minority population are slowly rent pricing out the community who has lived there. And while landlords are raising rents, it is the police who enforce the law and that tends to side with the landlord.
“We had a tenant who lived in Bushwick actually have her door kicked in by her landlord while she was in her apartment because he was trying to get her out,” said Moses. “It’s insane that the neighbors on that very block didn’t know that she was getting evicted until the city marshals came.”
The goal of the #NoEvictionZone Pledge is to empower residents who are not given the benefit of the doubt: “When black and brown people- especially black women– come out and actually talk about discrimination or harassment, they are not given the benefit of the doubt, especially by the media,” said Moses.
“It’s a problem. It’s not the fact that we’re trying to get one over on the system; there is nothing deceitful about our complaints. But we’re not given the benefit of the doubt.
“There is nothing wrong with development, we just want to be there to enjoy it.”
Kari Lindberg is a budding journalist with a passion for languages.
1 The Growing Gap: New York City’s Affordable Housing Challenge. Rep. Bureau of Fiscal and Budget Studies, Apr. 2014. Web.
2 There had previously been no existing statical data on the rate of pre-foreclousures in Bushwich.
3 The Cost of Renting in New York City: NYC Furman Center/ Capital One Affordable Rental Housing Landscape- Bushwick. Rep. NYC Furman Center/ Capital One, 23 Apr. 2014. Web. <https:// furmancenter.org/NYCRentalLandscape>.
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