The Second Battle of Bushwick

Thirty years after the blackout riots, it's getting hot all over again

A revitalized boulevard would be a source of pride to the residents of these big six-story apartment houses as well—except that, clearly, no one is inviting them to the party. In March, at 946 Bushwick, where city lawyers filed a no-heat/no-hot-water case against the owner in 2005, it took a crew of HPD workers to repair a roof leak that the owners had ignored. In the same building last year, the city had to plug a mysterious leak in a fourth-floor bathroom. The city is still waiting to be reimbursed for $25,000 in emergency-repair expenses it laid out to keep these three vital buildings habitable.

The city also has a date in court in July with the owners of 946 Bushwick, where it is seeking orders to correct outstanding violations and commensurate penalties.

Tenants at 920 Bushwick say they're unclear how many units the owners have succeeded in wresting from the current residents. But Daisy Matias, a feisty 29-year-old who has lived all her life in the building, says she's peeked into the remodeled apartments and marvelled. "People move out, and he makes some beautiful apartments. Then he jacks the rent up $1,000, $1,200, $1,800. The people that move in? They got the dough, you know?"

They won't go: Tenants Nereida Sanes and Gladys Melendez are fighting eviction and demanding repairs at 1430 Putnam avenue.
photo: Filip Kwiatkowsi
They won't go: Tenants Nereida Sanes and Gladys Melendez are fighting eviction and demanding repairs at 1430 Putnam avenue.


This story was reported by students in a class on urban investigative reporting at Hunter College inspired by the work of longtime Voice writer and Hunter alumnus Jack Newfield. The reporters are: Tony Antoniadis, Elizabeth Bieber, Robert Cruse, Ruben Gonzalez, Johanna Gustavsson, Miyako Hannan, Iesha Irish, Kelle Jacob, Alex Neustein, Tamaki Ondo, and Steven Rummer. The story was co-written by Voice staff writer Tom Robbins, who served as the Jack Newfield Visiting Professor of Journalism at Hunter, with assistance by Anna Lenzer.

Tune in: Tom Robbins on the New Battle of Bushwick

On a Monday evening last month, about 20 residents at 920 Bushwick Avenue gathered in the lobby for a meeting with Sister Kathy Maire, a soft-spoken veteran of housing organizing efforts who works with Father Powis's group, Bushwick Housing Independence. Maire was in the midst of talking about how to cope with the landlord's harassment when Lefhowitz, the managing agent, strolled into the building. He walked past the broken window in the interior door and the security camera whose snipped wires hang uselessly in a corner of the lobby.

He said he'd heard about the meeting and was concerned. "I hope you don't cause me any trouble," he told the nun. Maire smiled back.

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