A Leader’s Point of View: Homewood Gardens

Here at the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, we develop & support amazing leaders who fight hard for their rights and the rights of their fellow tenants.  Below is an account of one of those fights, as told by “Ms. S”, one of the tenant leaders in the Homewood Gardens Tenant Association.  The association just won an amazing victory when the Governor’s office issued a subpoena on their landlord to investigate years of harassment, discrimination, and illegal overcharges.  Congratulations Homewood Gardens!!

“For years we’ve been dealing with our landlord here are Homewood Gardens Estates.  Tenants have been wrongfully evicted, the landlord has cut off water claiming its for repairs when he is not really doing any, and workers have come into our apartments saying it’s to do repairs when they are really just taking pictures and looking for things they can claim are a problem, like washing machines.  Tenants have lived with rusted out tubs, bathroom ceilings that have caved in with mold, holes in the floor, tons of rats, and kitchen sinks that fall apart because leaks weren’t fixed for years. 

First the association tried by ourselves, then we found out about Flatbush Tenant Coalition which gave us more information on how to fight with strength and confidence.  And now after enduring months of no heat or hot water especially at major holidays, little or no repairs, being taken to court for all sorts of bogus things, we worked hard, did a lot of outreach to our neighbors, knocked on doors, and finally the TPU, which is the Tenant Protection Unit, and South Brooklyn Legal Services got involved.

During door knocking we asked tenants about the different repairs they had in their apartments. I told them about the problems I was having with the landlord and tried to see if they were having the same problems.  More than not, we were experiencing the same problems, just on different levels.  There were some people the landlord would try to push out, taking people to court, not cashing checks for months.   We also asked people how much they were paying, and we found out they were being overcharged.  We spoke to some of the new tenants, and found out their rents were ridiculously overcharged.  We found out some tenants have been asking for repairs for years, and that the landlord would make appointments to do the work and just not show up.  But he would still claim to DHCR that the tenant wasn’t home to let him in, or that the repairs were done when they were not.

For me the experience of reaching out to my neighbors was a good one.  I learned that I was not by myself, that there are other people willing to do something knowing we were all together doing it.  In the end we all are neighbors working together to get things done.   

Now subpoenas have been served on our landlord, and if feels like we are finally getting some place.  But the fight has just began and we will keep fighting!

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