NYC Tenants Protest Credit Suisse's Support of Abusive Landlord

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"Inquilinos Unidos ... Jamás Será Vencidos!"

Thumbnail image for please don't evict me

Tenants from Queens and Harlem came to Madison Square on Saturday to protest Credit Suisse's financial backing of Vantage Properties, LLC, a real estate management company.  The tenants came to protest Vantage's financial strategy of forcing rent-stabilized renters out by repeatedly filing frivolous lawsuits against them in housing court.  Vantage's goal is to speed up gentrification in up-and-coming neighborhoods by using illegal tactics to effectively evict low-income tenants. 

Vantage has gone on a buying spree throughout New York City over the past two years, snapping up approximately 9,200 rent-regulated apartments.  The company has made certain financial documents available to the Securities and Exchange Commission that outline its business strategy.  The company hopes to vacate 20-30% of its apartments in certain buildings within the first year after acquisition, renovate the units, and then raise the rent to market level.

But landlords can't just kick out rent-stabilized tenants--there are laws that prevent that.  So Vantage has come up with a new strategy to "recapture" high numbers of rent-stabilized apartments in western Queens and Harlem for wealthier tenants: harass its rent-stabilized tenants through frivolous lawsuits until they pack up and leave on their own.

Update: Read more about this story at the Daily News.  (I'm also told it was in El Diario, but I can't seem to find it.  If anyone else does, please let me know in comments.)

Vantage has been doing things like refusing to accept rent checks because a tenant's spouse's name was included on the check, then initiating non-payment proceedings in housing court against the tenant.  Vantage will claim that a tenant has 20 people living in his apartment.  Or that a tenant actually lives somewhere else most of the year.  All these allegations being completely baseless.  The tenant then ends up missing work to go to housing court to try to resolve the situation, often pro se (without legal counsel), losing sleep out of worry that this huge company will evict the tenant and his or her family.  The judge quickly sees there is no merit to the case and dismisses it.    

Then the same tenant will get sued again.  And again.  Each time the lawsuit gets thrown out of court.  But each time, the tenant is a little more inclined to pick up and move somewhere else.  It would just be easier ...  Many have probably done so already.   

Vantage has decided that harassing low-income tenants--often Spanish-speaking, often first or second-generation immigrants--out of their homes is the way to boost returns to its financiers during a down market. 

There's just one problem with this plan: they didn't expect the tenants to fight back. 

The Catholic Migration Office's Immigrant Tenant Advocacy Project (ITAP), Queens Legal Services Corporation, and The Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit last week in New York state court on behalf of several tenants in western Queens who have been the subject of frivolous lawsuits constituting deceptive practices under New York's Consumer Protection Law. 

A few hundred of the tenants mobilized for a rally and protest this past Saturday against Vantage and its backer, Credit Suisse.  State Senator John Sabini and City Council Member Eric Gioia also came to lend their support.

multilingual protest

I don't know what this sign in Korean says or why a middle-aged Latino man is holding it, but that is the sort of thing that happens in Queens, one of the most diverse communities in the world.

let's defend our rights

"Let's defend our rights."

Credit Suisse

it's raining evictions

"It's raining evictions!"

At the end of the protest, one outspoken tenant who had experienced harassment by Vantage delivered a symbolic eviction notice to Credit Suisse.  He pushed it through the 20 foot high ornate brass gates that the Credit Suisse building's security had erected to keep out the plebs (Not that the plebs were trying to get in ... and the gates were kind of bizarre ... "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!")  Sadly, my camera battery died before I could capture the gates or the eviction notice. 

This protest and lawsuit show that New York's immigrant communities will not sit idly by while big corporations try to displace and disempower them for financial gain.

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Gretchen Morgenson at the NY Times has a story today about the strategic harassment of tenants—many of them migrants—by big real estate companies in New York City.  I posted about this last month here.   As Morgenson explains, it’s part... Read More


Khursh Mian said:

A new blog has been created to assist people with the educational effort about what Vantage Properties, LLC means to affordable housing in NYC. Please check it out and pass along the information to everyone. Thanks!

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on April 15, 2008 7:32 AM.

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