Realty Clash: Landlords and Residents

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From at least April 2012 to August 2014, the business below Tranquilina Alvillar's apartment at 193 Bedford Avenue in North Williamsburg was this Nail & Spa.[28] 

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On April 1, 2016, a Doc Martens retailer opened below Tranquilina Alvillar's apartment, representative of the neighborhood change in North Williamsburg.[29]

Changes in the housing market within the community is another cause for concern with long-term residents of the area. With gentrifying neighborhoods like Los Sures, “a physical change in the housing stock and an economic change in the land and housing markets” are central to the process of gentrification.[30] The way the neighborhood looks is altered to fit a new demographic. In the case of Los Sures, as Edna describes it, “They have condos, I don’t know if you see, [but] you see, a lot of condos. And you could pay, ah, sometime[s] a million dollar for one little apartment.”[31] Simultaneously there is a shift in the desired housing stock as well as the price that can be charged for residents to live in that housing stock. These two factors have led to increasing tension and conflicts between landlords and residents. From the landlord’s perspective, long-time residents are too often conceptualized as the roadblock to making these changes. New people hoping to move into the neighborhood of Los Sures can be charged more and, as a result, bring in more profit for landlords. As the gap grows between what landlords could charge and what they are receiving from current, long-time residents—often in rent-stabilized apartments—the magnitude of landlords’ and property owners’ actions tends to intensify.

In North Williamsburg, a neighborhood that has experienced its own wave of gentrification, resident Tranquilina Alvillar faced this intensity when Reno Capital purchased her building in 2011. When Reno Capital gained ownership, their goal was to have all current residents leave. Through the offer of buyouts, all residents of the building besides Alvillar were persuaded to leave. Alvillar, who consistently pays her rent and established her home in North Williamsburg, wanted to remain in her apartment, refusing to accept the buyout offers. Reno Capital’s answer to this was to start demolition with Alvillar still occupying the building. When a New York City inspector’s attention was brought to the situation, Alvillar was legally required to vacate the building as it was deemed hazardous. After being forced to move, Alvillar was displaced for three years. When she was finally able to return to her home with the help of a lawyer, her apartment was half its size. Today, Reno Capital is still working to find legal means to evict Alvillar.[32]

The motivation behind Reno Capital’s efforts comes down to a numbers game. While similar apartments in the same building cost approximately 2,700 dollars in rent, Alvillar pays nearly four times less than this.[33] When economic gains are on the table masquerading as progress, the real life people are viewed as—at best—lesser, and often completely ignorable. The same mentalities against long-time residents can be observed in Los Sures. When Edna recounted conversations she has had with others in the neighborhood, there is a feeling of inevitability that haunts the dialogue. Residents of buildings that undergo required evacuation of residents for things like construction, are not likely going to come back to the same home, if they are able to come back at all. Even with policies that work to stabilize rent for long-time residents, Edna states definitively: “And they’re gonna raise your rent…They will. Otherwise you have to go because they’re going to make like a condo.”[34] When time and time again decisions are made in favor of the assailing parties—landlords and property owners using whatever means possible to remove long-term residents—it is difficult to imagine a future where the harm does not win out.

Realty Clash: Landlords and Residents