Block Party Against Brooklyn Owner-Evictions
"I love your neighborhood. Now, get out." Photo by Randa Dean
Tenants activists, Prospect Heights residents, and members of four households facing eviction held a block party on Bergen Street in Brooklyn on Sunday to ask the question whether "artists can be good neighbors?"
The answer for four families who live in rent-stabilized apartment at 533 Bergen Street would appear to be no as they are fighting eviction proceedings brought by the new owners of their building. The new owners of the four-story building—who purchased it for $866,000 in March of 2006—are seeking to evict the tenants under the owner-use clause of the state rent stabilization law, which says building owners can remove rent-stabilized tenants when they want a unit for themselves or a family member.
In this case, four thirty-something hipsters—Andre Wiesmayr; Deanne Cheuk, a well-known illustrator and designer; Dan Bailey; and Felicity Loughrey, a Vogue Australia scribe—are seeking to boot long-time residents of a building, which is just a block away from the Atlantic Yards site.
Such owner-use evictions have been more common in Manhattan— the most infamous case being 47 E. 3rd Street where the building's owners are seeking to convert a 15-unit rent stabilized building en masse—but are happening more often in rapidly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn, said Brent Meltzer, a lawyer for Evelyn Suarez, a cancer survivor who lives at 533 Bergen.
"You'd think as artists these people would basically have better politics but they're basically building their dream house on the backs of long-term rent-stabilized tenants," Meltzer said. "When they bought the building, they got it for that price because it came with five-rent stabilized tenants."
All four cases at 533 Dean Street will be heard in housing court in Brooklyn.
Councilwoman Letitia James, far left with hat on, stands with Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn's Patti Hagan and residents of 533 Bergen Street yesterday Photo by Lety Velasquez.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.