Dozens of disgruntled renters from across the city rallied outside Barclays Center on Sept. 22 demanding lawmakers protect them from high rents, eviction, and landlord harassment, then held a “funeral procession” mourning the sad state of the city’s housing stock.
The ralliers chose Kings County as their battleground because so many longtime locals are hurting from the impact of gentrification over the past decade that has made Brooklyn one of most expensive housing markets in the country, according to one organizer.
“Brooklyn has for the last 10 years has become a brand in and of itself, so we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people move into the borough,” said Michael Higgins Jr., a community organizer with activist group Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. “People feel it and that’s why they’re out there.”
After assembling outside the stadium, the protesters stormed through the surrounding neighborhoods with placards in the shape of tombstones and coffins, making stops at new Downtown luxury housing complex City Point and the Brooklyn Housing Court, before finishing up at the Gowanus Houses.
The rally was just one of many that took place across the country on Thursday as part of the Renter’s Day of Action — a movement demanding a nation-wide freeze on rents and “unjust” evictions, for all foreclosed homes be turned into affordable housing, and for stronger laws protecting tenants’ right to organize without being harassed by their landlords.
And if the rabble-rousers didn’t achieve their lofty goals, their demonstration at least gave heart to the victims of slumlords who are fighting to stay in their homes, one ringleader said.
“I hope it gives everybody hope,” said Park Slope rabble rouser Rev. Billy Talen, head of anti-consumerism group the Church of Stop Shopping. “The landlords and their lawyers are sometimes very mean-spirited and put false announcements on their doors and intimidate older folks into believing they must give up. But when they have people as you can see of all races and ages, of all genders, of all persuasions, when they see our good feelings, they then will have hope themselves and contact somebody and find out their landlord was bluffing.”