housingMilitant JournalismNew York City

Brooklyn neighborhood rallies for tenant facing landlord harassment

On March 20, over 20 people rallied in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn for Ms. Rosemarie, a tenant who has been viciously harassed by a landlord for years. The rally was organized by Brooklyn Eviction Defense, and was attended by several local organizations, including Crown Heights Tenant Union, Flatbush Tenants Coalition, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. 

According to Ms. Rosemarie, she has faced multiple forms of landlord harassment with the intent of forcing her out of her home, including violent threats, the shutting off of essential services, loud music being blasted at all hours, and even having feces spread in her home. This landlord harassment most recently culminated with attacks on her safety and well-being. Her landlord has also listed the apartment for rent, despite its current occupancy.

‘It’s harassment, but it’s still an eviction’

Ms. Rosemarie has gone through various city complaint channels and called the police to intervene on her behalf, but they have only met her appeals with silence and inaction.

“What’s happening here is an eviction,” explained Esteban Giron, an organizer with the CHTU. “It’s harassment, but it’s still an eviction.”

This kind of landlord harassment, though illegal, is not uncommon when landlords want existing lower-rent tenants to move out so they can rent to new tenants at higher rates but lack cause to evict through the courts. Even while the eviction moratorium was in effect, an analysis comparing pre-COVID and post-COVID complaints submitted to the Housing and Preservation Development found that “complaints filings are still consistent, and the tenants filing the complaints are more vulnerable now.” 

‘What we are facing is a war’

Ms. Rosemarie’s landlord has repeatedly called the police on organizers fighting to uphold her rights as a tenant and even on Ms. Rosemarie herself, claiming she was breaking into her own apartment.

“Let me be crystal clear, what we are facing is a war,” declared Matt Belen, an organizer with the PSL. “It’s a war on the working-class residents of Brooklyn, a war that is not simply waged by the landlords and their henchmen, but a war that is backed by the full power of the repressive arm of the state.” 

A neighbor passing by, moved by the energy of the rally, took her turn at the megaphone. She told the crowd that the neighborhood stood in solidarity with Ms. Rosemarie and was spreading the word about her situation.

Tenant organizers acknowledged the importance of coming together as a neighborhood and a class to fight back against landlord harassment.

“What we’ve done is created a reality in which landlords can not use their so-called property rights to push people around and brutalize … human beings to wring money out of them,” explained Joel Feingold, organizer with the CHTU. 

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