We’re here to stay.
That was the message of an anti-gentrification protest march in Bushwick on Wednesday. More than 100 people gathered to demand tightened rent regulations and share stories of what they described as landlord gouging.
“It is clear that we are in a crisis,” said Maria De Los Santos, explaining that she is fighting to keep both her apartment and her Irving Street juice business. “I have no rights, and if I lose my business, I lose everything.”
The activist group Make the Road New York organized the rally and members of Saint Nicks Alliance, United Neighbors Organization, and Los Sures attended.
“We must ensure that our rent laws are strengthened and renewed and only then we will see this plan to preserve and protect truly come to light,” said Los Sures organizer Debbie Medina.
The city’s rent stabilization laws are up for renewal early next year and organizers want to put the pressure on the state to make them more tenant-friendly. For example, they want to reform a rule that allows landlords to increase rent by 20 percent when an apartment is vacated, which they say incentivises evicting longtime residents.
“It is insane that the landlord can get a bonus for getting rid of tenants,” said Make the Road spokesman Jose Lopez. “These rules need to be changed so that they better protect the people.”
Make the Road also wants to weaken a rule that allows building-wide rent increases of as much as 6 percent for so-called “capital improvements,” which can consist of redoing a sound roof, or repairing a stairwell.
Many Bushwick residents in attendance said they had faced harassment from landlords who wanted them gone.
“We have to set an example,” Maria Najera said in Spanish.
She said she fought with her landlord for years to get him to repair a leaking roof and holes in the floor. All the while, he tried to entice her with money to leave the apartment, she said.
“On the internet, we read that Bushwick is getting better,” Najera said. “But for who?”