What is gentrification?
Our network member Equality for Flatbush defines ‘gentrification’ as “a concerted and deliberate effort to price out of low-to-middle income residents from neighborhoods by city government, corporations, real estate developers, and greedy landlords in favor of renting, selling, and catering to people of higher and/or more flexible incomes.” We know from first-hand experience that the same unscrupulous property owners who use tactics to force long-time older tenants of color out of their rent-stabilized apartments will turn around and illegally overcharge incoming younger white tenants for the same apartment. For this very reason, we believe that all of us- long-time and new residents, communities of color and white communities, low-income and middle-class people – have a stake in the urgent struggle to save affordable housing in Brooklyn.
How does gentrification happen?
The Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network understands that gentrification is caused by a system of capitalism, racism and state violence that enables real estate developers, landlords and people of higher and more flexible incomes to take over low and moderate income communities of color. We believe that gentrification is not inevitable, even in global centers of capital like New York City. Instead, it occurs because of the partnership between capital and government to both disinvestment from certain communities and encourage speculation that profits off the displacement of residents in those same communities while creating new housing, businesses and public spaces for newcomers.
Land use is the main power of local government to enable the process of gentrification. Rezoning is a tool used by the city to allow for additional residential development in historically residential communities as well as in former manufacturing areas. These instances may range from a single plot of land or entire neighborhoods, as is in the current housing plan. In both instances, these processes create huge increases in land value that profit landlords who may profit from displacement current tenants and landowners who frequently buy and sell land in anticipation of these processes. In New York, the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) is required in many cases to change the current use of a plot of land and places power primarily within the New York City Council. This legislative body of 51 members exercises large amounts of power over land use and often vote in conformity to the local council member where the site is located. Thus, individual council members can make or break a project that depends on a rezoning for its viability.
Often this partnership between capital and government includes other institutions from artistic and cultural producers and bodies of higher education which attract new people to an area that is targeted for gentrification. The styles and fads which dominate the world of mainstream art discipline frequently come from our communities so we know that we have always had art. Instead, we oppose both the promotion of outside artists to create images of what our communities should be that marginalize and exclude our presence and of home-born artists using their social capital to enable the disruption of existing communities.
We also reiterate the use of police to both secure the investments of newcomers and new businesses in these communities while placing longtime residents under increasing surveillance and scrutiny as is deemed appropriate to make newcomers “feel safe”. The increases of “quality of life” calls to the police when neighborhoods gentrify is not an accident but often an intentional crackdown on social behaviors common in low-income communities of color. This new police presence extends from new attention paid to public spaces and the harassment of both young people of color and informal vendors but also the homeless and mentally ill in these areas.
Why does BAN put a focus on being people of color led?
BAN understands that the current fight for our communities against both displacement and police violence have long histories rooted in policies that have reproduced racial domination here in Brooklyn but also across the country from redlining to the War on Drugs to Broken Windows policing. Precisely because it has been communities of color that have been most impacted by these policies should lead this movement.
What is BAN asking for?
BAN has organized around 12 concrete demands, which can be read below:
1. Universal rent-stabilization. The majority of New Yorkers currently live in non rent-stabilized housing and are at the mercy of their landlords. We demand that all rental units in NYC fall under the current rent-stabilization law. The rent-stabilization laws were originally created to address a housing crisis. We are in a state of emergency, with a record number of 60,000 people in the NYC shelter system each night and the majority of New Yorkers ‘rent-burdened’ according to city government standards, we demand the expansion of rent stabilization to create permanent housing for all New Yorkers.
2. No more rent destabilization and an end to tenant harassment. Landlords use an arsenal of shady and often illegal tactics to knock apartments out of qualifying for rent stabilization. When rent for an apartment surpasses $2,700 per month, it is no longer protected by rent stabilization. Since landlords can legally increase rent 20% when an apartment is vacated, this gives them incentive to push tenants with rent stabilization out. We demand that not one more rent-stabilized apartment is destabilized. Period.
3. No privatization of NYCHA and no selling off of NYCHA property. We demand dignified and permanent public housing for all who need it. We demand the preservation of all NYCHA housing and an end to ‘leasing’ i.e. selling off of NYCHA land. NYCHA residents are being displaced through the warehousing of NYCHA apartments, the removal of section 8 tenants out of NYCHA housing, the deliberate withholding of basic services and repairs, and through the blatant lies of elected officials and community leaders.
4. Maintain the rent increase exemptions for elderly, disabled, and HIV-positive New Yorkers with lower incomes, called SCRIE, DRIE, and HASA. NYC Programs Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) are rent freeze programs for elderly and disabled New Yorkers. Additionally, the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) provides access to money and services for low-income people with AIDS and people who are HIV positive. These programs must be accessible, accountable and transparent and harassment-free. These programs are in jeopardy, but we demand housing for our seniors, people with disabilities, and people living with HIV or AIDS. We demand hands off SCRIE, DRIE, and HASA.
5. We demand that NYC Council pass The Small Business Jobs Survival Act — SBJSA Intro 0402–2014. Keep neighborhood businesses safe. Huge corporations are changing the landscape of our communities with their chain store brands and pushing out the small businesses and mom-and-pop shops that have historically made Brooklyn unique. These are our neighbors. The Small Business Jobs Survival Act – SBJSA “supports a 10 year minimum lease, with equal negotiating power as the landlord for new terms, an end to the ever-changing yearly burden of landlords passing on their property tax expenses and an end to rent-gouging and exorbitant rent increases would indefinitely protect our small businesses over corporate moguls.” We demand the passing of The Small Business Jobs Survival Act.
6. AMI (Area Median Income ) needs to be based on community where housing is built. “Affordable housing” units are priced based on Area Median Income (AMI), however, AMI is calculated using the entire greater NYC region. That means income levels in Westchester and Long Island impact and raise the price of what is considered “affordable” in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and working class neighborhoods in Manhattan. This actually makes “affordable” housing unattainable to low to middle income people of this city. We demand that AMI is based on the community where housing will be built. Affordable for who? Affordable for us!
7. An end to the purchase of land and property in New York City by foreign investors. City government needs to stop allowing foreign investors to gain citizenship and investment return by building luxury housing. Foreign investors are using our real estate as a way of holding their money rather than building communities. We need real affordable housing in NYC.
8. A “permanent end” to 421-A tax breaks that “subsidize luxury development.” We need to invest money from this “giveaway” towards the development of permanent housing for homeless New Yorkers. The NYS 421-a Tax Incentive program is a partial real estate tax exemption for the new construction of multi-family rental housing, essentially used by developers as a tax break to build luxury housing. It was created in the 1970s to create an incentive to build in NYC, during a time when many people were moving out of the city to the suburbs. In 2014, NYC lost $1.1 billion in tax revenues to billionaire developers who are destroying our communities by building unaffordable housing that causes gentrification and displacement. The 421-a tax break expired in January 2016, pending an agreement between REBNY and construction unions only to be renewed under the Affordable New York Housing Program . We demand a permanent end to this and similar tax breaks that subsidize luxury development and accelerate the displacement of local communities and instead, investment of this billion dollar plus yearly giveaway to the real estate industry to immediate construction of permanent housing for the homeless.
9. No more income-segregated housing developments. Although the ‘poor door’ housing policy has been eliminated due to public outrage, NYC still permits segregated housing by allowing developers of luxury housing to build their ‘affordable units’ separately. This segregates tenants by income to dehumanize, humiliate, and discriminate against people with lower incomes. This practice is a disgusting example of obnoxious elitism and blatant segregation. We demand an end to this practice. Stop Jim Crow – No more segregated housing in Brooklyn.
10. Community boards need to be elected, not appointed. Community boards are currently appointed by each Borough President and therefore are not truly accountable or beholden to the community. We want to empower community boards to be more than just advisory and to have veto power. We demand and will work to change the New York City Charter so that Community Boards will be elected.
11. Full transparency of de Blasio’s Housing New York Plan. New York’s supposedly progressive mayor should know that democracy doesn’t function when government operates behind closed doors. We will not accept partial transparency. This is a no-brainer. We demand full transparency of Mayor De Blasio’s Housing Plan. This includes which neighborhoods are scheduled to be rezoned or upzoned, where new developments are to be built, and other crucial information that helps us prepare and protect our communities!
12. Creative, truly affordable housing for all. While New York is littered with vacant and boarded up buildings, and apartments purposely kept empty by landlords waiting for rent increase opportunities (also known as warehousing), developers insist on constructing new luxury buildings. We know the city could create an abundance of affordable housing if they weren’t focused on promoting luxury buildings to the detriment of our communities. We will not accept one more person being pushed out of their home; we will not tolerate warehousing of public housing; and we will not allow one more luxury unit built until there is adequate housing for everyone—100% affordable housing! We want preservation over development. We demand alternative and creative affordable housing for all.
“Zoned Out: Race, Displacement and City Planning in New York City” by Tom Angotti and Sylvia Morse
“Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State” by Samuel Stein
“How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood” by Peter Moskowitz
“Citizen Jane: Battle for the City” by Matt Tyrnaeur
“My Brooklyn” by Kelly Anderson
“Gut Renovation” by Su Friedrich
“El Barrio Tours: Gentrification in East Harlem” by Andrew Padilla
“The Iron Triangle” by Prudence Katze & William Lehman
“The Atlanta Way” by King Williams
“Flag Wars” by Linda Goode Bryant and Laura Poitras
“Gentrified” by Jason Black
“Not In My Neighborhood” by Kurt Odabenga Orderson and Najma Nuriddin