Since 2003, I have served as Executive Director of Bed-Stuy Tenants Association (BSTA), a non-profit housing tenant organization.
Last week, the City notified us that it is terminating our “substantial grant” with the Association for the benefit of our landlord, Denson Properties.
The company is currently a part of TONY, a joint venture of Trump Hospitality Companies and Morgan Stanley, which owns a significant number of towers and apartment buildings in the area of Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn.
Bed-Stuy Tenants Association has been a catalyst for good-government activities of the community, and especially for achieving affordable housing for the neighborhood’s working-class residents. In one example, when the president of Denson Properties , Carlos Ortiz, wrote a letter to the city Council stating that he would not sell a building in Bed-Stuy to a non-profit housing tenant organization, we led an effort to display the letter on a kiosk at the entrance to our Central YWCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Since it was founded, the Borough President’s office, in partnership with Bed-Stuy Tenants Association, has successfully worked to secure nearly 1,000 affordable units in the neighborhood. Most of those units are in tenements or condos that have not been sold to non-profits, and almost 80 units are located in the “E-nine” project, a project authorized by Council Member Vincent Gentile. There are very few places in Bed-Stuy where the median price for a condo is over $750,000, and even fewer where the median income for a family of four is under $39,000.
In 2016, our association and other local housing groups led a petition drive to oppose the city’s rezoning of a neighborhood park, with petition signers representing nearly 600 apartment buildings in the area. We also organized petitions, organizing public protests, sitting with petition signers outside the Department of Housing Preservation and Development offices, as well as delivering petitions to staff at the City Council’s hearing on the rezoning plan. The City Council included this park, at Stuart Street in Bed-Stuy, in the first subway line extension as part of the Transformation of Atlantic Yards project.
Also in 2016, we launched a new website to support efforts by non-profits, such as our own, to push for real-estate regulation at their properties. At least 26 other neighborhood non-profits — including 13 that either had our buildings as part of their portfolio, or directly represented tenants of our buildings — have made similar websites.
Bed-Stuy Tenants Association is proud of its long record of civic activities that address issues of concern to its members. We have negotiated an extremely favorable deal with our landlord to help residents struggling with foreclosures.
Bed-Stuy Tenants Association’s landlord, Denson Properties, has run over $1 million worth of advertisements promoting the company on Borough President Eric Adams’ platform posters, letters to the editor, and on the side of buses. Mr. Adams has written letters to state and federal legislators in support of our landlords’ projects.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development has also received thousands of dollars in donations from Denson Properties.
This is what is wrong with big business in New York City today. This is why the City’s threat to cut ties with Bed-Stuy Tenants Association cannot go unanswered. Bed-Stuy Tenants Association and other housing tenant groups must step up their efforts in this historic battle. They must use every means at their disposal to stop the City from breaking loose from our association and its community. In order to restore their funding, we must persuade council members to support the resolution they passed to protect us, and join us in opposing Denson Properties.