Tenant Organizing

The Brooklyn Movement Center believes that our work in building a political home for working class black residents in Central Brooklyn requires us to organize around a vision of a stable Black community. For us, that includes supporting  the right for tenants to organize themselves for better living conditions in Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. 

What does a stable Black community look like?

  • A community where Black residents are free of influences that hinder their access to both find and enjoy safe and quality housing, including tenant harassment, lack of repairs and housing discrimination based on race or source of income.
  • A community where black homeowners can continue to live in their homes and transfer their properties within their families if they so wish without threat of fraud or harassment
  • A community where black renters have the right to organize for better conditions and are supported by their neighbors, community institutions and local elected officials

Before COVID, Central Brooklyn had been seeing rent increases, tenant harassment and foreclosures that were threatening the right of longtime black residents to live in dignified housing. More than ever, there is a need for tenants to organize to fight against a wave of evictions and displacement. This includes:

  • Tenants living in unregulated housing and have little leverage against landlord demands,
  • Rent stabilized tenants that are increasingly experiencing harassment to leave their apartments,
  • Section 8 tenants who experience discrimination when searching for housing and are having more project based landlords opt out of the program, and
  • NYCHA residents who are demanding accountability from the city of New York for the poor conditions of their buildings.

Interested in receiving support from BMC on your tenant issue? Fill out our intake form. We can provide trainings for you or your group on the following:

  • Your Rights as a Tenant in NYC
  • Gentrification in Central Brooklyn
  • Starting a Tenant Association
  • Organizer Strategy Session

We can also give more specialized support on your campaign, either as a one on one conversation or small group meeting with your leadership.

Want to get more housing updates? Sign up for our housing justice mailing list here

Have a question or suggestion? Send Mike a message at [email protected]

What is Central Brooklyn Anyway?

Central Brooklyn is more a sociocultural term than geographic, roughly defining the predominantly black communities of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Flatbush and East Flatbush at its core and other communities in Brownsville, Canarsie, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene and Prospect Heights on its periphery. 

Central Brooklyn has been and continues to be home to a number of different communities that cut across class, race and ethnic lines. However as Brooklyn becomes a worldwide brand and real estate prices increase, access to housing has become less and less available to the many longtime residents who call these neighborhoods their home.  

North Crown Heights

State of New York City’s Neighborhoods: BK Community Board 8

Displacement Alert Project (DAP) District Report: BK Community Board 8

Bedford Stuyvesant

State of New York City’s Neighborhoods: BK Community Board 3

Displacement Alert Project (DAP) District Report: BK Community Board 3

Your Rights as a Tenant

A landlord cannot evict you without taking you to court. The landlord must go to court, must win the case, and then must pay a fee to have a law enforcement officer properly evict you. The New York state moratorium on evictions has been extended until August 31st, with a further extension for those who complete a hardship declaration. Please read more about those details here.

  • It is a class A misdemeanor for anyone to illegally evict you by [1]:
    • Changing the locks,
    • Padlocking the doors,
    • Taking out your furniture or property,
    • Removing the door of the apartment or house,
    • Turning off the electricity or water,
    • Doing, or threatening to do, anything else that keeps you out of your house or apartment
  • If you are served with eviction papers, you should respond as soon as possible.
    • If you disagree with what the landlord says, and you ask the judge to postpone the case, the judge is required to postpone the case for at least 14 days.
    • Until courts re-open, petitions can be answered by phone.
  • You may have defenses that will cause the court to dismiss the landlord’s case against you. If the landlord is trying to evict you for non-payment of rent, you should tell the judge if any of the following apply:
    • Never received a letter by certified mail telling you the rent was not received at least five days after it was due.
    • Was not served with a written 14 day demand for the rent.
    • The landlord is trying to charge you for late fees or other charges that are not part of your regular rent.
    • Paid the rent, or you tried to pay the rent. Bring proof (receipt or witness) to court.
    • Withholding rent because the landlord won’t make repairs. Bring a copy of the housing inspector’s report, photos, and any other proof.
    • Landlord did not give you rent receipts.
    • If you can show loss of income due to COVID-19
      • The Tenant Safe Harbor Act prohibits evictions of residential tenants, but allows money judgments in favor of landlords for nonpayment of rent, for as long as any part of the county in which such tenant resides is shut down due to COVID-19.
  • If an eviction case is brought up against you, a lawyer may be made available to you free of charge
    • Right to Counsel (RTC) is a bill passed by New York City Council that allows tenants that have been sued by their landlords and that are income-eligible access to legal counsel.
      • As of 2020, the bill is restricted to certain zip codes in each borough. In Brooklyn, these zip codes are 11207, 11216, 11221, 11225 and 11226.
      • You can check if you are income-eligible along with answers to other questions by going to the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition website.
  • Courts remain open to receiving cases for illegal evictions, tenant harassment and emergency repairs. You can start such a case using the JustFix platform.
  • You can read more about the eviction process and your rights as a tenant at the Housing Court Answers (HCA) tenant resource page.

Organizing Resources

Thinking about how to organize your building?

  • You have the legal right
    • as a tenant to organize with other tenants.
    • to meet in common areas.
    • to organize without retaliation from your landlord.
  • Read more about your rights to organize here.
  • Check out the following resources:
    • JustFix.nyc is an online platform that provides services for tenants to advocate for themselves, including how to request a rent history, send a letter of complaint and respond to an eviction notice. 
    • Who Owns What is a database managed by JustFix.nyc that tracks who owns your building and other buildings owned by the same person or company.
    • The Displacement Alert Project (DAP) Portal is a database managed by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD) that has information from recent sales, evictions, HPD and DOB complaints and violations as well as tenant litigation against the landlord. 

Interested in receiving support from BMC on your tenant issue? Fill out our intake form.

BMC Press