Yesterday the tenants of 810-828 Midwood told their story. Theirs is a story of neglect, corruption, exploitation and harassment. The tenants live in a Michtell-Lama cooperative. The Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families. This is well and good if in rhetoric. But the program creates a board to administer the maintenance, collection of rent and overall function of the complex.
The evictions have got to stop. The families, and community, of tenants have had enough. The board of directors are operating as petty tyrants. They are not doing regular election, they are not meeting quorum for their meetings. Because of this tenants are disempowered, left in the dark and, worst of all, being evicted. Since 2017, 280 formal “legal” eviction have been filed against so-called shareholder tenants. We doorknocked the building and saw a dozen marshall notices on doors. Alternatively, the board is also taking eviction into their own hands. Denying repairs, ticketing tenants for standing outside of their own building (their home!), watching tenants burn to death in their homes and then condemning the unit while mold spreads to the rest of the building. One such example is King Judah, a veteran who deserved life but was denied humanity and pushed out of his home. The precarity of being unhoused led him to pass away due to hypothermia. He is survived by his community and his spirit will live on with us forever.
A small minority, the Board, has assumed the power to lord over people’s homes, lives and futures. The position is desirable to nefarious people. People who don’t care about their neighbors as much as they care for themselves. People out to make a quick buck. One member of the board was recently arrested. He had swindled 70,000$ from tenants. Are the tenants angry with how things are? Of course they are.
The Harry Silver Housing board of directors are unhappy with tenants. They are unhappy they are speaking to each other. They’ve closed down common spaces — playgrounds, rec centers, changed keys to buildings — so tenants are isolated. They are unhappy that their tactics of atomization have failed. When Lesie, a worker-tenant and a leader, began to talk to her neighbors and reached out to the borough-wide tenants union she was met with hostility. Her name slandered all across the complex. Her own retaliatory holdover case was used to discredit her in a letter physically printed and put under every tenants door. Did that stop her? Of course not. Did that stop the movement struggling against oppression? Of course not.
What are we gonna do about it?
We rallied. Tenants and neighbors who felt the gravity of this oppression, who live in this oppression, who want to see this oppression dissolved, showed up; we all came together to say enough is enough. How do we accomplish the end to this oppression? We must create a counter institution to the undemocratic board of this co-op. We are forming a tenant association where tenants can be heard, where tenants can be in charge, where the class interests of the tenants are first and foremost. We will no longer be swindled for our rents by an undemocratic board. We will take back our futures. Our children will walk into the sunlight and have a playground.