Are Artists Who Jump-Started Gentrification Allowed To Complain About It?

Photo via Brownstoner
Photo via Brownstoner

The obvious short answer here being “even if the aren’t, yes, they complain about it constantly.” Finding a place you can afford to live, only to be pushed out by other people who also think it’s cool and happen to have more money than you is insanely frustrating, and even more frustrating for longtime residents. It’s a back-and-forth we chronicle on a near-daily basis, but, from Red Hook we now have a particularly interesting case.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week on a group of tenants in the neighborhood that are suing their landlord to retroactively render their units in 14 Verona St. rent-stabilized. “It’s the age-old story of the pioneers getting pushed out,” said one sculptor who’s lived in the building since 2000. “We believe that we should be protected under the rent-stabilization law. They think we’re disposable.” The dispute started coming to a head, unsurprisingly, after landlords tried to raise rents by upwards of 60 percent in a single year.

The tenants’ argument hinges on a law applicable to buildings built before 1974 that “have more than six units and haven’t been more than 75 percent renovated,” though attorneys for the building claim that this isn’t how the rule was meant to be interpreted. “It’s a real black-letter, settled aspect of the law,” said one.

Further complicating the issue are tenant claims that, working under the assumption that they wouldn’t have their rent nearly doubled, they undertook numerous renovations of their own including “in at least one case an elaborate claw-foot tub.” Their landlords say these claims are unsubstantiated and that they themselves have had to bear the brunt of renovation costs.

Seems like it may be a bit of a stretch for these tenants, legally speaking, but their attorney told the paper, “There are a lot of buildings that are awaking to discover that landlords are trying to charge exorbitant rents as a condition of renewal,” and it’s almost inevitable that this’ll give lots of other people the same idea, successful court case or no. In particularly, we have a feeling similar cases will rear their heads in Bushwick sooner rather than later.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.


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