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According to a study conducted by New York City Rent Guidelines Board in their 2014 Income and Affordability Study, the number of actual cases heard in Housing Court decreased by 7.8% in 2013 along with the number of nonpayment filings by 1.1%. Most logic would assume this to be positive, however, somehow the number of evictions have actually increased by 0.4%. How can the leading cause of eviction, non-payment

not correlate with actual evictions?






organisations, lends a forensic lens into the




current circumstances tenants in Flatbush, Brooklyn especially those in prewar and rent stabilized buildings are facing, the growing


market demand for housing, the tactics that are being used by landlords to evict tenants through the legal system, and the issues surrounding the structure and process of



housing court. Although not unique to New York, using Flatbush will serve as a controlled study for my research. As a resident of Flatbush, it is my hope to bring to light the current issues and unobscure


procedures of the housing court system.

Showing Cause Graduate Thesis by Shirley Lucy Bucknor To The committee of Design and Urban Ecology Parsons New School of Design

Mural on wall of Flatbush Co-op Photo source:

Foreword According to a study conducted by New York City Rent Guidelines Board in their 2014 Income and Affordability Study, the number of actual cases heard in Housing Court decreased by 7.8% in 2013 along with the number of nonpayment filings by 1.1%. Most logic would assume this to be positive, however, somehow the number of evictions have actually increased by 0.4%. How can the leading cause of eviction, non-payment not correlate with actual evictions? My research working alongside local organisations, lends a forensic lens into the current circumstances tenants in Flatbush, Brooklyn especially those in prewar and rent stabilized buildings are facing, the growing market demand for housing, the tactics that are being used by landlords to evict tenants through the legal system, and the issues surrounding the structure and process of housing court. Although not unique to New York, using Flatbush will serve as a controlled study for my research. As a resident of Flatbush, it is my hope to bring to light the current issues and unobscure procedures of the housing court system.


Contents Foreword 4 History Flatbush Historic Background 6  Surmounting Contemporary Urban Pressures 12 Community Preservation and Organizing 13 Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-first Century Flatbush Organizations Serving the Flatbush Residents 18


Activism Flatbush at a Closer Look: A Comparison to Brooklyn and New York City 19 Market Research Immigrants in the Flatbush area 24 Ethnic Population of Flatbush 24 Demographics of Flatbush 25 Population, Households, and Marriage Rates of Flatbush 26 Education 27 Employment 27 Income 28 Poverty 29 Income to Rent Ratio 30 Occupancy / Vacancy 32 Homelessness 33 Summary of Secondary Research 40 Research Focus 40 Involvements Tenant Meetings 41 Housing Court and Flatbush in the Media Research and Analysis of Housing Court Housing Court as a Market Indicator 44 Eviction Trends 49 Orders to Show Cause 50 Visits to Housing Court 51 Resources available 54 Conclusion 54 Suggestions for change 55 Endnotes Endnotes: 56

42 44

6 History

Flatbush Historic Background


— Shirley L Bucknor

ocated almost in the center of

Brooklyn, New York,


the small neighborhood of Flatbush. For many generations this area has been considered and also referred to by locals as “The Heart of Brooklyn” and not just for its geographic location but more importantly its very old and infamous history in shaping New York City as a whole.

— Keywords community engagement, flatbush, 21st street, tenants

It’s here, nestled away from the shore and planted on some of the highest grounds of Brooklyn, the first Dutch colonists settled to create a new life and start what would one day become a part of the largest city in America. At first glance, the Flatbush area would probably be overlooked by most, and is often unknown even to many native New Yorkers due to its secluded location. If one were to visit the Flatbush of today and find it’s many tree lined streets bustling and tidy shops little would allude to the turbulent history issues brewing below the surface. However, It is here in Flatbush and similar neighborhood like it that larger issues are created revolving around property and rights, clashes and wars, social systems, economic engines, and racial equality. Starting in the 1630s Dutch colonist begin to move inland from the southern shore of Brooklyn to what they called Midwout and Vlacke Bos meaning “the middle woods” or the flatlands covered with bushes” patented by Governor Stuyvesant (2). Even from its beginning it is said the land was purchased by means of a misunderstood deal between the Dutch colonist and the Canarsees Indian tribe. Trading with them what could be summed up as a collection of supplies. This was disputed many years later as the Canarsee had no concept in their culture of humans owning land. Assuming the trade was for temporary use, since many other tribes shared the area. This of course only resulted in decades of wars and skirmishes and the eventual eradication of Native Americans in the area by the 1680s (2) Paraphrased from the writings in The Social History of Flatbush in 1899, by Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbuilt,”The town itself originated and was built alongside of the ancient

The village of Flatbush as it was in the year 1870, 1943; Map Collection, B P-1870 [1943].Fd; Brooklyn Historical Society

Indian trading path that cut through the middle of the island and down to the sea. It was along this path that the colonist and farmers could find safety and build their homes. Over time the path developed into the town’s main street and major thoroughfare into what we now know today as Flatbush Avenue.�



At the current day cross roads of Flatbush and Church Avenue, a few blocks from my own apartment, sits the first church built in Brooklyn. The Flatbush Dutch Reform Church built in 1654. With the church, Flatbush became the cultural center of Brooklyn, with the first Judicial center of Kings County by 1686, as well as the first county courthouse. With the English acquiring the land, the importing and use of slavery began in Brooklyn and by the 1698 census it reported 15% of the population were enslaved Africans, increasing to 25% by 1738. Surprisingly enough it was in the surrounding area of Flatbush where one of greatest disputes over land and rights at the time started. The first battle of the Revolutionary War, The Battle of Long island in 1776. Through the duration of

Flatbush Reformed Dutch Church. The first church in Flatbush, built 1654

the war the community of Flatbush suffered significantly and with the destruction led to the flight of most of its original Dutch settlers. Over time the area continued to be a haven for new waves of immigrants into America. From the 1840s to the 1860s the first of European immigrants arrived from Ireland and Germany bringing nearly 5 million people. By then Flatbush had developed as a prosperous and wealthy farming area, supplying Manhattan with bountiful yields while provide many jobs to the Flatbush residents. By 1855 the population of Flatbush would become almost 35% Irish born. It is during this time in Flatbush we also hear of interest-

While many slave testimonies under Dutch ruling state that landowners in the Flatbush area were fair and kind to them during British rule, those testimonies would quickly shift to unfair and unfavourable. Many disputes, abolitionist fights, and runaway slave stories hailed from this area as well. With “In the year 2000, more the gradual implementation of laws restricting than 5.4 million U.S. slavery practice in the New York area the number residents traced their of enslaved Africans dwindled and in the year of national origins to Puerto 1865 the thirteenth amendment was finally enacted putting an end to the practice in America. Despite Rico, Cuba, and the their new freedom though many African American’s Dominican Republic.” ended up staying in the Flatbush area working for ( the families and eventually integrating themselves as members of the community. By the 1880s and until the 1920s, we see the next great wave of migration with over 23 million people emigrating from Italy, Austria-Hungary, Eastern and Southern Europe once again reshaping the New York cultural landscape. With this influx we also see the hand of modern industrialization extending from Manhattan by way of the Brooklyn bridge in 1883, Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, as well as New York’s first subway IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan in 1908. With new accessibility and transportation, many well to do or upper middle class Brooklyn and Manhattanites begin looking at Flatbush as a retreat from the dense and dirty city, gradually occupying the area from around 1900 to 1903. Developers around the turn of the century seized this opportunity and begin buying the farm properties, parceling them out into smaller plots, and building large freestanding Victorian style homes for this new demographic. Thus creating some early examples of New York master planned communities such as Ditmas Park and Caton Park, built 47 years before larger communities such as Levittown were ever conceived. These communities introduced business and area developments into Flatbush, strengthening its economy at the time. By this time one could begin to formulate the ethnic makeup of Flatbush. Becoming a true melting pot full of European working class immigrants, freed slave community members, minority English and Dutch landowners and farmers, and growing

9 History

ing accounts of European and Irish indentured servants; children whom were signed away from their parents as slave labor or apprentices, working alongside and baring equivalence to class levels of many African slaves, building the framework for a what would eventually become a multicultural working class community.

Global Migration Trends per era Source: http://www. education/geog/ population/migration_ map.shtml



number of upper middle class suburban homeowners, Flatbush developed the need for further business, institutional and housing establishments. This buildup of mixed cultures and market pressures in the area will only continue to exacerbate for the next 40 to 50 years creating much of the make-up and environment we know today. During this time Flatbush along with other New York areas experienced major changes in their social fabric. The great migrations of freed slaves form the south into New York will mark this major social change. The new immigrants will be seeking a new and better life in the North. Starting around 1916 and up until the 1930s Brooklyn explodes with new residents, becoming the most populous of all of the boroughs for working class migrants. With this influx the demand for housing skyrocketed and once again developers were quick to reacting with new home and multi-family dwellings to accommodate such large numbers of residents, this starting the multi-family housing building boom of the pre-war era. Long gone will be any remnants of the previous agricultural lifestyle. Now the urban landscape was even swallowing up and butting up against the grandiose

Top photo, 1912 Bottom photo, 2013 Source: www. Google maps

Victorian homes of communities such as Ditmas Park. This monumental shift drastically charged the building topography of the Flatbush area bringing with it the ever increasing urban pressures it had managed to escape for generations. Increasingly the area continued to welcome incoming immigrants, providing affordable housing for war-fleeing families from Europe. With the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 it allowed over 200,000 refugees to enter the United States making Flatbush once again a cultural hub. New pockets of Jewish and Eastern European communities begin to surface. By 1952 the McCarren-Walter Act opened further immigration and citizenship into the United States. And between 1965-1980 US immigration tops 8 Million, 41% from Latin America, 34% from Asia, and an average of 20,000 Caribbeans enter the US each year from 1960-1970. The Caribbean population will make its way to Flatbush comprising of a majority of Flatbush residents today. By 1969 we start seeing this celebration of new community members with the first West Indian Day Parade along Eastern Parkway.

11 History

View of Cortleyou Road, looking east from Marlborough Road

Surmounting Contemporary Urban Pressures Brooklyn CORE’s boycott and picketing campaign against unfair hiring practices of Ebinger’s Bakery.



Source: Brooklyn Library http://www. brooklyn-collection/ black-history-monthbrooklyn-collection

Beginning in the 1960s and into the early 80s, amidst transportation infrastructure developments, social, economic, political, racial and cultural tensions within the community began to arise and be addressed. Cases such as the Brooklyn CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), Ebinger Bakery boycott of 1962 made the headlines. Meanwhile the Verrazano Narrows Bridge is completed connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island providing ancestral Irish and Italian immigrants the opportunity to flee the congested and deteriorating area into new suburbs of Staten Island in masses, taking with them vital economic organs depreciating the health of the community.

An article published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on February 6, 1860 describing a slave auction at Plymouth Church. Source: Brooklyn Library http://www. brooklyn-collection/ black-history-monthbrooklyn-collection

By the late 1960s, the ethnic and racial composition of Flatbush had changed dramatically. Between 1950 and 1970, more than 500,000 white residents had left Brooklyn. During the same time the borough gained over 400,000 people of color. These same moves will continue to be recurring themes of many urban communities throughout the nation. In the same year of 1964 President Johnson declares War on Poverty as poor conditions continued to escalate in the larger inner cities. Adding to this, the 1960s also brought with it devastating actions by the federal government and unscrupulous real estate agents- with practices such as “Redlining” where areas of racial composition were singled out as high risk zones for lending, essentially stopping all business and home loans to be granted to non-white areas, crippling the

local economy. A practice that would be used in Flatbush and many other areas over the nation.

Community Preservation and Organizing Across the nation similar stories were also being played out in the inner cities of America. Those that had the ability to flee the inner city neighborhoods for the suburbs were doing just that. However within these deteriorating communities across the nation there also grew a new generation for those who saw the historical and cultural values that neighborhoods like Flatbush possessed. Instead of abandoning the people and the area’s landmarks, groups began to organize and work to fight urban blight. These efforts continued the march for nationwide push for civil rights, fair working and housing conditions. Starting in the early 60s through the 70s Flatbush residents began addressing the preservation of the local historic landmarks as a part of a nationwide trend of preservationist formulating groups such as Flatbush Tenants Counsel, FlatBush Historical Society, Church Avenue Business Association (CAMBA) ,and Flatbush Development Corporation.


Map of Flatbush showing age of buildings Source: BRKLYNR, Thomas Rhiel


Following this, the economic declined intensified with “blockbusting” another crippling policy where real estate agents and speculators exploited racial fears to convince white homeowners to flee the area and sell their property far below market rate- as the New York’s Secretary of State testified in 1972: “The key was excessive solicitation”. Homeowners could expect visits from buyers 3 to 4 times a day at their door, postcards, advertisements, radio, television, and even trucks with blaring loudspeakers proclaiming “it was time to move out of Flatbush”. Realtors would then rent these newly available houses to and apartments at exorbitant rates to incoming black and other non-white families desperate for housing. A Flatbush assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs even conducted an investigation that documented an increase from 17 to 38 brokers in Flatbush in just 9 years.

A BRIEF TIMELINE ON N German-speaking


Yankees from New

people largest

England made up the

foreign-born group

first great wave of

in Rochester and

domestic migration.

Buffalo, and by 1855 about 30,000

European migrants

of Buffalo’s 74,000

have already settled

residents were

in New York





The first great

New York City had

Italians and Jews in New


Black migration

wave of European

133,730 Irish-born

New York city

York City,


to New York, and

immigrants arrive



of the city

especially to New


was about

York City, began



during World War I

Gradual migraton of Africans from slave states to NY before the Civil War of 1861


1910 1914


nearly 500,000 Italian-born immigrants were






Jewish population of

Nearly 40,000 Puerto

Italian population

Over 600,000 New

701,000 whites left

By 1997, blacks com-

the city was about

Ricans settled in

in city increases to

Yorkers of Puerto

New York, while

prised 19.4% of the


New York City in


Rican birth

60,000 blacks were

New York City area’s


total population.

living in the state

1946, and 58,500 in 1952–53. Many other Carib-

During the 1960s, an


Between 1990 and

estimated net total of

1998, New York’s

bean natives—es-

638,000 whites were

overall population

pecially Dominicans,

move out of the state

only increased by

Jamaicans, and

White emigrants



396,000 blacks move

went to suburban

1995–2000, 726,477

in from the South

areas of New Jersey

people moved

and Connecticut, but many also went to two Sunbelt states, Florida and


into the state and 1,600,725 moved

out, for a net loss of 874,248.

Flatbush Housing Typology







A Victorian Style Homes, Ditmars Park, Brooklyn, NY B Detached Row Homes, Kensington, Brooklyn, NY C Mixed Use Building, Corner of Avenue D and Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY D Georgian Style Home, Prospect Park South, Brooklyn, NY E Semi-Detached Homes, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, NY F Multi-Unit Apartment Buildings, Ocean Avenue

Up until the early 80’s Flatbush started to appear in history as a neighborhood being brought back from very troubling times and on a great path to revitalization. Even new businesses such as the Flatbush Food Co-op are created to bring fresh and healthy food into the area. As well Newkirk Plaza, one of the city’s first commercial revitalization projects opens, Ditmas Park is designated a historic district. However, because most of these organizations drew support primarily from the area’s older residents, membership declined in the early 80s and The Town of Flatbush Civic and Cultural Association had to close followed by The Flatbush Historical Society in the 90s.

Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-first Century Flatbush By 1994 the foreign born population of the US had reached 8.7%, almost double 4.8% in 1970 and once again Flatbush had become a place for new immigrants. The Flatbush Tenants Association continued to assist new community members seeking asylum from countries like Cambodia and providing them with low income housing. By 1996 though The Illegal Immigrant Reform Act tightened border enforcement, raising new barriers to refugees seeking such asylum. Adding to that President Clinton soon ended up signing The Welfare Reform Act that eliminated Aid to families with dependent children which placed tighter restrictions on access to food stamps and welfare affecting most immigrant and low income communities. By the 21st century Flatbush had also become home to New York’s largest Pakistani immigrant population as many of them were fleeing civil crises in Pakistan in the 80s. It is said that Flatbush became a good home for them as the surrounding Jewish community had plenty of Kosher butchers that could serve Muslims observing Halal laws. The area soon became known as “Little Pakistan” to locals.

17 History

By 72’ the Town of Flatbush Civic and Cultural Association (TOFCCA) is also incorporated. With the collective energy of such groups they begin to win battles against development corporations and government that aim at capitalizing on the poor conditions. In 1973 one of the first battles is won where the Flatbush Town Hall is preserved and designated a New York City landmark, following a push from the Flatbush Chamber of Commerce who wanted to turn the site into a parking lot. This momentum continued to fight for more preservation and in 76’ Flatbush is chosen to for the first federally targeted neighborhood stabilization programs in the nation.



With the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 however, Congress passed the Patriot Act, a new sweeping law enforcement legislation. In recent history this act appears to have had some of the most widespread damage in the community. Within a matter of weeks an estimated 20,000 people, mostly Muslims, were deported or left voluntarily from the New York area. Another estimated 500 Pakistanis from “Little Pakistan� were said to have simply vanished. Along with these individuals having to leave, hundreds of Pakistani businesses were forced to close with the decline of their clientele. Further collateral damage had also be documented as neighboring business of all ethnic types felt the immediate shock wave forcing them to also close their doors. While we have yet to see how these recent acts have played out for the neighborhood of Flatbush over history it certainly has made major shifts once again in demographic and overall health of the community. As with previous fights against inequality and human rights we have seen that members of the Flatbush community have once again banded and organized in creating new groups such as the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) in 2002 which serves to help to build community relations among Muslim and non-Muslim community groups.

Organizations Serving the Flatbush Residents As relevant as it is to grasp and paint the history of Flatbush, it is also equally informing as a resident to join the insurmountable efforts being made and stake my involvement through local organizations. In the pursuit of learning as much as possible about the past and present circumstances I found that primary research or firsthand accounts to be invaluable in understanding the issues of today. While learning about issues of the past can many times be achieved through secondary or historical documents finding the problems that exist in the present require in field research and engagement with many individuals, tenant groups, and organizations in the community. Speaking with such organizations lent me an insight view to the conditions and increasing issues the neighborhood faces today. My first and primary contact throughout my research was with the Flatbush Tenants Coalition (formally Flatbush Tenants Counsel). As quoted from their mission statement,� The Flatbush Tenant Coalition is a group of tenant associations in Flatbush, East Flatbush, and South Crown Heights, Brooklyn working collectively to build power in the tenant community. Acting together, we advocate for our right to change conditions and systems to improve the lives of tenants. We

Working with and communicating with members of the organization I was able to attend many neighbourhood –wide tenant meetings and listen to stories and struggles people in Flatbush were facing. As well I further donated my time to the organization to promote outreach and increase the transparency of resources available to the community. Along with the FTC I had also reached out to another group still fighting for positive change in the area, The Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC). The FDC works to identify and respond to the needs of the community by creating many programs, campaigns, and partnerships through economic development, housing, youth, immigration and other initiatives that further promote and enhanced the quality of life, safety, and preservation of Flatbush. With their help I was also able to further examine the housing environment and areas of concern for the community. Further outreach also included talks and visits with The Church Avenue Business Association (CAMBRA) who also provide programs in economic development, education and youth development, family support, health, housing and legal services as well as The Council of Peoples Organization (COPO); who came into being in the aftermath the backlash faced by South Asians, particularly Muslims, in the neighborhood post 9/11. Along with the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush founded in 1979 who work to identify and address the needs of the disadvantaged, alleviate the plight of the poor, and serve as the oasis of support and assistance for the community. .

Flatbush at a Closer Look: A Comparison to Brooklyn and New York City In order to have a firm understanding on circumstances of today, both in Flatbush and New York City as a whole, it was important to look at all sides of the market. While research into the history can be incredibly informative as to how things became the way they are and community outreach will give you a great understanding of the feelings, fears, and pressures tenants and businesses face, it was also important for me to look into all factors of the market and the local

19 Activism

support and build tenant associations and tenant leaders to work with or against landlords to meet tenant needs. We educate tenants about their rights and how to organize their buildings to make change. We take united action in tenants’ rights campaigns. Working together to build tenant power, we help create a more just and equitable society.�

Flatbush Tenant  Coalition   Membership  Structure  


Steering Commi?ee  

CoaliBon Coordinator/ Organizer   Lead   Community   Organizer  

Public Ally  


MSW Intern  

MSW Intern  

MSW Intern  

Steering Committee  

Campaigns and  Committees  


BTU's Campaign  to   Reform   Brooklyn   Housing  Court    

Public RelaBons   Commi?ee  

Steering Commi?ee   Members  

Elected Officials   Commi?ee  

Fundraising Commi?ee  

Strengthing Rent  Laws  


BTU's Campaign  to   Reform  Brooklyn   Housing  Court  

Steering Commi?ee  

Strengthening Rent   Laws  

Public RelaBons   Commi?ee  

Campaigns for   Respect  and   Repairs  

Fundraising Commi?ee  

Elected Officials   Commi?ee  


Flatbush Tenant   Coalition  

Flatbush Development   Corporation  


MSW Intern  

MSW Intern  

MSW Intern  


mmi?ees Steering   Commi?ee  

Public RelaBons   Commi?ee  

Fundraising Commi?ee  

Elected Officials   Commi?ee  

Housing Case   Management  

Youth Programs  

FTC organisational structure Source: FTC

Economic Development  

Campaign Campaign   and  Committee   and  Committee   Members   Members       Steering  Committee   Steering  Committee  

Jean Folkes   Jean  Folkes   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Thomas  WThomas   illiams   Williams   Marietta  SMarietta   mall   Small   Tammy  Brake   Tammy  Brake   Ruth  Riddick   Ruth  Riddick   Loraine  Dellamore   Loraine  Dellamore   Gloria  Campbell   Gloria  Campbell   Beverly  Rivers   Beverly  Rivers   Redoneva  Redoneva   Andrews   Andrews   Lloyd  Smith   Lloyd  Smith   Curt  Thompson   Curt  Thompson   Sherryann  Sherryann   Bain   Bain      

BTU’s Campaign   BTU’s  tCo  ampaign   Reform   to  Reform   Brooklyn  HBrooklyn   ousing  Court Housing     Court  

Thomas WThomas   illiams   Williams   Tammy  Brake   Tammy  Brake   Marietta  SMarietta   mall   Small   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Ruth  Riddick   Ruth  Riddick   Curt  Thompson   Curt  Thompson   Gloria  Campbell   Gloria  Campbell   Loraine  Dellamore   Loraine  Dellamore   Beverly  Rivers   Beverly  Rivers   Redoneva  Redoneva   Andrews   Andrews   Louise  Springer   Louise  Springer   Philomena   Philomena   Nimley   Nimley   Ron  Simon   Ron  Simon   Elizabeth  Elizabeth   Colonette  Colonette   Lilia  Lawson   Lilia  Lawson   Thurston   Thurston  W illiams   Williams   Sarah  Harris   Sarah  Harris      

Fundraising Fundraising   Committee  Committee  

Elsie Hampton-­‐El   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Tammy  Brake   Tammy  Brake   Marietta  SMarietta   mall   Small   Jean  Folkes   Jean  Folkes   Paulette  JPaulette   ames   James                  

Elected Officials   Elected   Committee   Officials  Committee  

Marietta SMarietta   mall   Small   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Elsie  Hampton-­‐El   Thomas  WThomas   illiams   Williams   Tammy  Brake   Tammy  Brake   Ruth  Riddick   Ruth  Riddick   Jean  Folkes   Jean  Folkes   Beverly  Rivers   Beverly  Rivers   Gloria  Campbell   Gloria  Campbell   Redoneva  Redoneva   Andrews   Andrews   Lloyd  Smith   Lloyd  Smith   Sherryann  Sherryann   Bain   Bain   Loraine  Delamore   Loraine  Delamore   Paulette  JPaulette   ames   James   Pamela  Niles   Pamela  Niles      

FTC organisational structure and committee list Source: FTC

Public Relations   Public  CRommittee   elations  Committee  

Ruth Riddick   Ruth  Riddick   Sherryann  Sherryann   Bain   Bain   Curt  Thompson   Curt  Thompson   Lloyd  Smith   Lloyd  Smith   Denton  Sterling   Denton  Sterling      

Strengthening Strengthening   Rent  Laws  R –  ent   R3   Laws  –  R3  

Jean Folkes   Jean  Folkes   Philomena   Philomena   Nimley   Nimley      

Strengthening Strengthening   Rent  Laws  R –  ent     Laws  –     Campaign  tCampaign   o  End  Non-­‐Rent   to  End  FNees   on-­‐Rent  Fees  

Thomas WThomas   illiams   Williams   Louise  Springer   Louise  Springer   Zandria  Paul   Zandria  Paul   Emma  Leiveille-­‐Robinson   Emma  Leiveille-­‐Robinson   Kenny  Still   Kenny  Still   Key Shirley  Bucknor   Shirley  Bucknor   Pascal  Gramont   Pascal  Gramont   Committee # of campaigns Claire  Luke   Claire  Luke   per member Mirna  Thomas   Mirna  Thomas   Purple: 4 Visel  Riley  Visel  Riley   Valerie  Coley   Valerie  Coley   Green: 3 Dawn  Keating   Dawn  Keating   Orange: 2 Patrick  Flores   Patrick  Flores   Veronica  EVeronica   rskine   Erskine   Key   Key   Purple:  4   Purple:  4   Green:  3   Green:  3  



A: Flatbush Tenants Coalition B: Meeting on illegal fees being charged by landlords @ Senior Care Center on Ditmas Ave and 1st St, March 22, 2014 C: Tenant speaking @ meeting on illegal fees being charged by landlords, March 22, 2014 Source: FTC

demographics. This further aided me in deeply understanding the landscape, culture, demographics, housing ecology, and economy that is constantly changing.

Market Research


This was especially the case in studying Flatbush, because this is and has been an immigrant community for many generations. It is not uncommon for most Flatbush residents to operate under the immigration and law radar. This is due to their immigration status, language barriers, or lack of understanding in local laws. As stated in, Confronting the Housing Squeeze: Challenges Facing Immigrant Tenants, and What New York Can Do, these newcomers are more vulnerable to being taken advantage of and ending up in overcrowded, illegal, expensive, or unhealthy living conditions (4).

Immigrants in the Flatbush area As the map indicates Flatbush along with a great majority of Brooklyn and Queens are the most immigrant rich areas and provide the third highest level of affordable new housing. (4) Focusing in on Flatbush demographics from The New York City Health and mental Hygiene (5) we see that the majority of Flatbush continues to stay true to its history as it welcomes new immigrants in with 51% being foreign born, compared to Brooklyn as a whole being 38%, or all of New York City at only 36%. In many cases, immigrants have played a critical role in bringing back neighborhoods like Flatbush that were hit by severe disinvestment in the 1970s and 1980s. But even as they have brought new energy and investment to neighborhoods, many of them have ended up in overcrowded, illegal, expensive, and sometimes unsafe conditions. In many cases these immigrants have limited English proficiency, may have entered the country illegally or undocumented, potentially putting them at the mercy of landlords. They are less likely than other New Yorkers to live in publicly subsidized affordable housing and more likely to face problems affording housing due to employment status.(4)

Ethnic Population of Flatbush Today the ethnic and racial makeup of Flatbush not including Midwood has transformed into a predominantly African American and West Indian community making up 79.8% of the population.(1) Many of these residents or their relatives started to arrive in America in the 1960s and settling into

As far as languages spoken at home 13.7% of Flatbush residents speak Spanish at home, followed by 9.2% who speak Haitian Creole; 5.4% who speak Russian; 3.5% who speak an Indic language; 2.8% who speak Urdu, and 2.7% who speak French. Primarily English is the dominant language (52%) in Flatbush, but studies have shown up to 20.3% of families are linguistically isolated and 4,365 children ages 5-17 live in linguistically isolated households. The Census Bureau defines a linguistically isolated household as one in which either no person age 14 or over speaks only English at home, or no person age 14 over who speaks a language other than English at home speaks English “Very well�. (7) Parents from these households often keep their children out of school because they need them to act as interpreters for the home potentially holding them back from assimilating into the community and gaining the education they need. As well, parents who cannot speak English well usually cannot participate fully in their children’s education and therefore not provide their children with the support they need. While Flatbush has for a long time provided a place for new immigrants to live the challenges they face can be very large including learning how to navigate complex governmental systems.

Demographics of Flatbush As with many new immigrant areas they tend to be comprised of a younger generation migrating to new lands in order to forge a better life. Here in Flatbush 30% of all residents are between the ages of 25 and 44, 28% between 0 and 17 years of age, and 22% between 45 and 65 this making up the majority of community. In fact only 9% of the population is comprised of senior citizens age 65 and above.

25 Market Research

Flatbush. This being after the McCarren-Walter Act opened immigration and were most likely a part of the estimated 20,000 Caribbeans that were entering the country each year up until the 70s.(2) With family roots in Flatbush we continue to see new arrivals of young Caribbean or West Indian immigrants moving into the area looking for opportunities in America. The second largest ethnic demographic after African American and West Indians would be Hispanic or Latino making up 14% of the population. 4.9% were two or more races, whites at 2.8%, Asians 0.4%, and Native American at 5.7% of the Flatbush population. (10) Out of all the ethnic communities in Flatbush the largest number is in the Haitians with over 13,000 residents. There are also an additional 22,000 foreign born residents representing Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, and Mexico. (7)

Market Research




In many ways the area of Flatbush tends to attract young adults to middle age both foreign born and recent transplants such as myself from another area of the country due to inexpensive housing and relatively close proximity to the city. For many coming to New York it is also important to be near family or groups of individuals who share your same ethnicity and background. Just like many neighborhoods of New York City, Flatbush has also been home to several major ethnic groups.

Population, Households, and Marriage Rates of Flatbush Based on the most recent US Census released in 2000 Census, there were 37,132 housing units with 106,154 people living in the Flatbush neighborhood with zip code 11226. Based on other studies the population has slightly shrunk but maintaining somewhere around 104,300. Out of this population there was a total count of 38,009 households, which gives the average of 2.71 persons per household. (6) The majority of these households seem to be family members but only 34.5% seem to have any children. The number of married to single residents seems to be very close with 41.75% married and 44.2% single. This information begins to inform about Flatbush area in that while it may be home to many native New Yorkers and immigrants who also have family that they may live with; many of these individuals of the community are still young, single, and without children- which makes sense that it is easier for one to migrate to another area of the country or world without the responsibilities marriage and children bring. As well, the ability to start live on one’s own and to start a family has higher income demands which can be attributed to language and education levels.


The great news on the employment front for New York City area as a whole is that it actually gained 83,100 jobs in 2013, resulting in a 2.1% increase from 2012 in total employment levels. (14) As we see with many similar areas of the country with these increases in employment they tend to have a slower effect on the minority or ethnic areas. It would appear though that along with many parts of the city Flatbush is seeing some of this job growth as more new businesses appear to be popping up with positive growth in the economy.


Employment Based on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board 2014 Income and Affordability Study, New York City’s unemployment rate as a whole was higher than the national average coming in at 8.7% compared to 7.4% for the rest of the country (8). When we look even closer at Brooklyn compared to New York City as a whole we see the unemployment rise to almost 9.4% or greater, based on the latest New York State Labor Department’s press release in 2014.




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Based on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board 2014 Income and Affordability Study, New York City’s unemployment rate as a whole was higher than the national average coming in at 8.7% compared to 7.4% for the rest of the country (8). When we look even closer at Brooklyn compared to New York City as a whole we see the unemployment rise to almost 9.4% or greater, based on the latest New York State Labor Department’s press release in 2014. Economically Flatbush has become primarily a white collar working class neighborhood at 85.28% of the population, with only 14.72% in a blue collar work force.(6). As some would suggest given the large black population of Flatbush one can anticipate that there would be higher rate of unemployment compared to Brooklyn as a whole. This being due to many factors in the community and that high unemployment is often associated with including lower education rates, increases in domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect.

NYC & U.S. Unemployment Rates Fall in 2013 10%


9% 8%

Market Research


7% 6% 5% 4% 3% 2% 1% 0% NYC US

2010 9.6% 9.6%

2011 9.1% 8.9%

2012 9.3% 8.1%

2013 8.7% 7.4%


Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and NYS Dept. of Labor; Data is updated annually and may differ from that in prior reports.

Economically Flatbush has become primarily a white collar working class neighborhood at 85.28% of the population, with only 14.72% in a blue collar work force.(6). As some would suggest given the large black population of Flatbush one can anticipate that there would be higher rate of unemployment compared to Brooklyn as a whole. This being due to many factors in the community and that high unemployment is often associated with including lower education rates, increases in domestic violence, and child abuse and neglect. The great news on the employment front for New York City area as a whole is that it actually gained 83,100 jobs in 2013, resulting in a 2.1% increase from 2012 in total employment levels. (14) As we see with many similar areas of the country with these increases in employment they tend to have a slower effect on the minority or ethnic areas. It would appear though that along with many parts of the city Flatbush is seeing some of this job growth as more new businesses appear to be popping up with positive growth in the economy.

Income With median age in Flatbush being between 25 and 44 the average income tends to fall around $40,705 a year.(6) However, some reality reports have shown median income to be much lower at $29,915 per year.(12) Compared to all of King’s County with a median income of $43,644, Flatbush resident’s fall slightly below the average.(11) Worst off is when we consider the 51% foreign born population residing in Flatbush and look at the median income of households



$40,209 / 12 = $3,350.75 $3,350.75 X (x/100) = $1,196 32.2% MEDIAN GROSS RENTTO-INCOME RATIO

Market Research





headed by immigrants in all of New York City it comes in significantly less than those whose heads are native born with a year income of $35,500. Based on data derived from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, the most recent annual numbers cover the 2012 calendar year. The data shows an overall increase in nominal wages, but a decrease in “real� wages (wages adjusted for inflation). One possible reason for conflicting income information in the Flatbush area could be to the skew in the demographics of the area. As we will touch on later Flatbush does have a drastic dividing line between incomes in its borders. One could easily imagine how this is possible by simply taking a look at its difference in housing typology. It would see that the majority of Flatbush residents reside in low rent multi-family pre-war buildings, but within the center of Flatbush still stands the large free standing Victorian homes from the turn of the century. In the parts of Flatbush areas such as Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces, Beverley Square, Caton Park, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, Midwood Park, Newkirk, and others. Here the median sale price in 2012 was around $450,000 (13).

Poverty When looking at the percent of residents who are economically challenged and falling into the poverty classification, Flatbush measures even with New York City as a whole at 22.1% (7) of the population but slightly lower than the rest of Brooklyn at 25% of the population. 25.2% of children living in Flatbush are at the poverty line. And

Market Research






over all Flatbush far exceeds the poverty levels of New York City (NYC) at 19.9%, and the U.S. national average of 13.5%. Along with poor education levels, employment and income are a huge issue with the residents of Flatbush. While there are pockets of Flatbush which have much higher income and education levels these tend to be the areas of the neighborhood living in the free standing Victorian homes like Ditmas Park or in the much fewer number of large post-war buildings, for the most part the majority of the residents especially those in low income to poverty levels tend to reside in multi-family pre-war buildings. Looking at all of New York, the Census Bureau reported that poverty rate for all individuals was 21.2% in 2012, an increase from 20.9% in 2011, and the fourth consecutive year of increase in this rate. Of course poverty rates vary widely depending on borough as most can easily see the income disparities between the different areas. Rates range from a low of 11.6% in Staten Island, to 16.2% in Queens, 17.8% in Manhattan. The highest rates however are consistently in the areas with higher concentration of minorities and new immigrants with 24.3% in Brooklyn, and 31.0% in the Bronx. More troubling for these areas which includes Flatbush, is that compared to the prior year, rates decreased in both Manhattan and Staten Island and have a trend of rising in the other boroughs.

Income to Rent Ratio Close to 80% of Flatbush residents live in rental units, which the other 20% being home owners. Out of that percentage 54.7% of the community pays more than 30% of their household income on rent. Increasingly, even for this long time immigrant neighborhood, there has begun to be a shortage of affordable housing. Often times it is found

that the struggling Flatbush families are forced to live in overcrowded housing conditions; sharing the apartment with one or even two other families, referred to as doubling or tripling up. (7)

Gross Rent-to-Income Ratio, 2005-2012 33.0% % % 32.5% % 32.0% % 31.5% % 31.0% % 30.5% % 30.0% % 29.5% % 29.0%

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012


Gross Rent-toIncome Ratio Falls for the First Time Since 2007

Source: American Community Survey, 2005-2012

Not only are the majority of residents in the Flatbush living in rental units but ones that are typically pre-war and rent stabilized. In 2012 the average stabilized property owner in Brooklyn collected a monthly rent of $917 per unit. However, many property owners have reported earning more for their units by “selling services to their tenants”. In fact the current Real Property Income and Expense filings (RPIE) show average earnings of $1,211 a month on average for pre-war buildings. It’s reported that these income figures from property owners could include services such as laundry, vending, parking, and commercial income within the properties. Despite these extra income earnings from landlords and much like previous years, units in pre-war buildings, especially those in stabilized buildings rented for less on average than those in post-war buildings and can lead to many stresses between owners and tenants.

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When looking at income based on housing typology the 2011 Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS), which reflects household income for 2010, showed the median income for all rental households was $38,447.19, post-46 (“post-war”) tenants earned a median income level of $40,000. Stabilized tenants on the whole had a median income of $37,000. And tenants living in stabilized buildings built prior to 1947 (“prewar”) had the lowest median income of $36,000 this being the majority of the renters in the Flatbush community. Furthermore, for rent stabilized tenants on the whole, 34.8% pay more than 50% of their income towards gross rent, with ratios of 35.6% for tenants in pre-war apartments and 32.3% for post-war apartments.

Occupancy / Vacancy

Market Research


In comparison to the rest of New York City housing vacancies rates tend to be much higher in Flatbush. This can be for many reasons due to the market appeal of prospective renters considering the distance from Manhattan and aging pre-war buildings. For these reasons and many others Flatbush has continued to provide available housing for a lower than average rate. For these reasons alone Flatbush continues to attract both immigrants and lower income earners. In fact the according to recent reality findings Flatbush had on average a 4.6% vacancy rate, compared to Brooklyn as a whole having only 2.6%, and 3.12% for all of New York city.. Being no surprise to New York residents, the results from the 2011 Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) that were released in 2012, showed that the entire New York housing market was tightening. While the city may have had an overall 3.12% vacancy rate that is well below the 5% threshold required for rent regulation to continue under state law. With these low numbers in vacancy there poses a threat to tenants as market demand increases and prospective renters are willing to pay more landlords may be willing to take extra measures in capitalizing on such earnings. This can be especially the case in Pre-war and rent stabilized buildings that heavily exist in the Flatbush area. As pointed out earlier it is these buildings fetch lower than average rents and offer landlords lower profit margins. Cash Assistance / Supplemental Income Programs Another factor to consider when analyzing the local economy is to look at the amount of public assistance granted as a general health indicator. While finding specific economic or welfare assistance by neighborhood can be difficult to find we are able to look at the general need for Kings County, Brooklyn and all of New York City. Based on New York City Department of City Planning’s data on Brooklyn 2012, cash assistance has decreased from their last report in 2005. However, with Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid the total has increased in Brooklyn. In 2005 recording 36.9% of the Brooklyn population was on one of these programs compared to 42.6% in 2012. As a growing trend for the last five years the total number of cash assistance cases in New York City has increased by 0.6% between 2012 and 2013. This follows an increase of 0.6% in the prior year. Despite this increases in the past five years, when one looks at the last 18 years the number

In general it would appear that when looking at cash assistance or supplemental income programs the economic health of Brooklyn and New York City is getting better. While there have been increases in Social Security and Medicare in Brooklyn one could reason that this could be due to an aging baby boom generation entering retirement. When considering the long term decline of assistance granted along with the number applications even submitted one can conclude the economic health is has been improving.



Homelessness in the City, based on data from the Dept.. of Homeless Services (DHS), increased for the fifth consecutive year during 2013, rising by 14.1%.

Recently homelessness has reached the highest level it’s ever been since the great depression. According to the homeless advocacy organization, Coalition for the Homeless, they were able to collect an astonishing data representing those that checked into shelter in a 2012 report for New York. Total number of homeless people in municipal shelters per night: 48,694 Out of this number 11,678 were homeless families 20,383 were homeless children Based on data from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) homelessness in the city increased for the fifth consecutive year during 2013, rising by 14.1% Each night, an average of 49,408 persons stayed in DHS shelters during 2013, up 6,113 persons from a year earlier, and up consid-

33 Market Research

of cash assistance recipients has dropped significantly, falling 70.2% since March 1995, when the City’s welfare reform initiative began and 1,161,000 recipients were on the rolls. While the number of cash assistance cases rose slightly in 2013, the number of applications for cash assistance fell, declining 3.7% over 2012 levels. Accompanying the job grow in New York City the reported job placements among cash assistance recipients increased during 2013, rising by 10.2%, or 7,904 jobs. (14)

erably from the average of 20,000-25,000 found in the 1990s While levels rose on the whole, so did the subcategory of the number of families sheltered each day, by an average of 12.7%. . The number of single adults sheltered also rose during 2013, increasing 9.0%. (17) Market Research


While more people were staying in homeless shelters during 2013, more were also being relocated to permanent housing during the year. Permanent housing placements for families with children, adult families, and single adults all rose substantially over 2012 figures. For families with children, placements rose by 47%. And for single adults, placements rose by approximately 29%. (17) Data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which asks municipalities to submit homeless counts on a single day of January of each year, shows that New York City has the largest number of homeless people of any city in the nation. NYC reported a total of 64,060 sheltered and unsheltered persons in January of 2013, followed by Los Angeles, with 53,798 persons, and Seattle, with 9,106, and at the national level, homeless levels declined by 3.7%. (18) African-American and Latino New Yorkers are disproportionately affected by homelessness. Approximately 53 percent of New York City homeless shelter residents are AfricanAmerican, 32 percent are Latino, 6 percent are white, 1 percent are Asian-American, 1 percent are Native American or other race/ ethnicity, and 9 percent are of unknown race/ ethnicity. According to Coalition for the Homeless, “Research shows that the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. The U.S. Bureau of the Census has recorded a steady decline in the number of affordable rental apartments in New York City, at the same time that wages for low-income New Yorkers have stagnated or fallen -- thus creating a widening affordability gap. (19) More specifically when examining family homelessness and its causes I found several revelations in a comprehensive study conducted in 2005 by the Vera Institute of Justice. As part of this research they found that the majority of homeless families resided in the Bronx, Central Brooklyn and Northern Manhattan prior to becoming homeless. Only one quarter of homeless families had sought help fighting their eviction. Most heads of homeless families reported having a relatively stable housing history before they entered shelter. In addition the majority of respondents were the leaseholder for their residence and had entered the Housing Court system at one point in time. Despite existing

35 Market Research

services and resources in New York City to help families avoid eviction, most families did not fight their eviction. In fact, across the various jarring events that families experienced during the five years prior to entering shelter, only a quarter sought and received services that might have helped them cope with these problems.



WHO ARE THE HOMELESS? The social perspective of homelessness is one not easily accepted and in many ways influence the way homeless individuals are treated and regarded within the social system. Homelessness is generally viewed in a couple of ways. One being that they are solely responsible for their plight and have failed at sustaining themselves, hence failures of society. Another view in line with advocacy efforts for basic human rights, disputes the fact that homeless people are solely to be blamed for this and takes into account the many factors that contribute to homelessness and the lack of a system put in place to reverse and counter homelessness. The above photo depicts the stereotypical characteristic of a homeless individual, isolated and removed from the social net work. However, recent-

ly, this depiction has faced drastic transformations especially during this hard hit economy-recession. More and more of middle class families are at risk of homelessness and are in need of shelter and alternative forms of housing. The shelter system has taken a major restructure and shift because of the high demand of needed housing. Your homeless now more than ever comprise of families and the working homeless! As the characteristics of homelessness are shifting, so are those of shelters, and shelter are no longer of the quintessential warehouse buidling of multiplying bunk beds. Shelters have now crossed over into the private sector. Later in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the statistics surrounding the shelter system.

LEGAL DEFINITION There are many interpretations of homelessness, but according to the Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C. § 11301, et seq. (1994), a person is considered homeless who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence; and... has a primary night time residency that is: (A) a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations... (B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized, or (C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.” The term “homeless individual” does not include any individual imprisoned or otherwise detained pursu-


1200 1000

Amount of Street


Homeless per Borough

600 400 200




“Since the first annual street survey in 2005, the number of homeless individuals living in public places has decreased by 26% from 4,395 to 3,262. That’s more than 1,133 fewer New Yorkers sleeping on streets, in parks and in subways.”




On their website they report their methodology as, “New York City’s methodology for counting the homeless is considered the gold standard by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The City’s streets, parks, and subway stations are divided into approximately 7,000 HOPE Areas, each about the size of a few square blocks. In the months before HOPE DHS uses information from outreach providers and past HOPE results to divide the City into high density areas, where we expect to find unsheltered individuals, and low density areas, where we may not. On HOPE night, teams of volunteers survey a sample of the areas, collec-





3111 3000 2648 2500




of Street Homeless


per Year

1000 500 0 2005

To tackle the issue of homelessness and gain a better understanding of the situation, the city of New York through, developed an annual census program to dedicate a night on which thousands of volunteers go out, count and record the amount of homeless people they see on the streets- those not in shelters, called the HOPE survey. The Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE)






Simply, anyone without a home!



ant to an Act of Congress or a state law.” 42 U.S.C. § 11302(c)1


1800 1600










tively walking over a thousand miles through New York City’s streets, parks, and subway stations. To maintain the survey’s integrity volunteers do not know if they are assigned to a high density or low density area. “ Questioning its accuracy, the program discloses, “To ensure accuracy the HOPE count has employed a quality assurance component every year since beginning its citywide count in 2005: decoys. The Hunter College School of Social Work, an independent research organization, plants decoy homeless individuals on some of the streets, parks, and subways that volunteers will survey. Decoys ensure that volunteers cover every part of their assigned areas, and that they interview everyone they see. Hunter’s researchers report how many decoys were surveyed, and the City adjusts its estimate based on the percentage missed. New York is the only U.S. city that ensures the accuracy of its count through this plant-capture technique, providing an additional measure of accuracy to our methodology.”



Even though the city is making an effort to maintain accuracy in its census, organizations such as Coalition for the Homeless feel it is still unrepresentative of the actual data of homeless -on-thestreets individuals out there. They say, “Each night thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population, and recent City surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers. It is unclear why this organization and others such as Picture the Homeless, do not dispute the city’s data, however it still gives a sense of the overwhelming circumstances surrounding homelessness.

3/4 of the shelter population are families

DID YOU KNOW: Families comprise nearly three-quarters of the homeless shelter population?

Number of homeless adults in families:


1 OUT OF 4

Recently homelessness has reached the highest level it’s ever been since the great depression. According to the homeless advocacy organization, Coalition for the Homeless, they were able to collect an astonishing data representing the those that checked into shelter in a 2012 report for New York. Total number of homeless people in municipal shelters per night:

48,694 Out of this number

11,678 were homeless families 20,383 were homeless children More than 1 in 4 children in NYC live in poverty and are likely to be homeless. A typical homeless child is under 5 years old.

Youth population 5-10% LGBT

Homeless Youth population 20-40% LGBT

17,843 Number of homeless single adults:

10,476 Number of homeless single men:

7,728 Number of homeless single women:



Take Martha, 49, Lives with 19 Year Old Son


Security Guard



Lives in one room with no bathroom or kitchen

Auburn family shelter

MAP OF SHELTERS AND AID SERVICES, NOT INCLUDING APARTMENT SHELTERS >50 Mixed Collection of Shelters 51 Shelters for Families 43 Shelters for singles - men, women, or both 37 Welfare hotels Soup kitchen

$1099 / Month

$1700 / Month asked to pay over 50% of her income

Summary of Secondary Research

Market Research


Over the course of this researching into the Flatbush area and understanding more deeply the overall market and makeup of the city. With this we can understanding many of the complex layers to this community and the exterior factors that have influence. Overall we can see Flatbush as a predominating ethnic neighborhood with a good number of it’s inhabitants being born outside of the United States. With the majority of the community African American or West Indian descent along with a mixture of other ethnicities making up the cultural fabric. Most residents are also young and with few children. Income levels in general were slightly low the city but certainly not the worst. Reflecting in it’s education levels, the average household income was lower than the rest of the borough; however, poverty levels were slightly better. While the typical Flatbush resident may not fall into poverty status they do however pay an increasingly higher than average percent of their income towards rent. While the Flatbush neighborhood may have higher vacancy rates then compared to the rest of Brooklyn or the city these levels of occupancy are still below the regulation threshold and have little to no effect on tenants rent affordability. City wide the number of cash assistance recipients are down along with the number of applicants. Looking at all of these statistics so far one would assume the general health and market of Flatbush, Brooklyn, and New York City as a whole to be improving. It would seem that if more of the market was working and incomes were increasing so would spending, thus fueling the economy and creating more housing. However, as we has seen despite these good signs the cities homelessness seems to be increasing at a faster rate. More troubling to learn in my research was the fact that majority of the families becoming homeless where from outerborough areas and are disproportionately more likely to be black, all of which exemplify characteristics of Flatbush. Shockingly these families also had gone through an eviction process through the Housing Court System but didn’t access any resources to help them.

Research Focus Coinciding with the secondary research I was conducting on Flatbush and New York City, my goal was also to get as much experience and interaction personally with my building and community of Flatbush. This was essential in further understanding the area, the people, and this issues they faced.

As previously noted, involvement in the local organizations was a key measure in gaining insight into the area and current issues. Another side of my neighborhood interaction was in the attendance and participation of my buildings tenant group meetings and supporting activities. Involvements


Tenant Meetings Beginning with weekly tenant meetings in my building at 538 E 21st St. owned and operated by Shamco Management Company, my goal at first was to simply observe and take note of tenant conversations and complaints and try to understand what headaches they were going through. With my regular attendance, I began to get more involved in topics of discussion, asking questions, and even voicing my own gripes with the property. Over time, I have developed and earned the trust of my neighbors and devote myself and my time to

Typical FTC Meeting

assisting our tenant association and FTC in our objectives, many times constructing and distributing surveys, notices, as well as petitions. For the most part the issues or grievances of resident mostly revolved around property conditions or upkeep, often filing petitions of work orders. However though our surveys, which included all of those who could not attend our weekly meetings, there appeared to be growing trend around two

areas. One was that many tenants were regularly receiving late fees or penalties despite on-time payments. And two was the more terrifying and completely confusing experience of having to appear or answer to Housing Court.



One tenant and fellow meeting member, Mr. Ken S., I interview described the experience as “shameful, humiliating, and without sense”. Worst off the claim he was appearing in court for he had filed against Shamco for repairs that had not been made after multiple requests to management. In Kenny’s account, after filing and waiting for a hearing for some time, he appeared before the judge with the attorney of Shamco. Ready to make his case with all the evidence and documentation, the judge ended up only speaking with the attorney for a matter of a few minutes, and without looking at any shred of evidence and dismissed the case.

After hearing multiple other stories just like Ken’s and after learning of the homelessness rates that had gone through Housing court this was becoming a red flag in my research to investigate more into the Housing Court System.

Housing Court and Flatbush in the Media Along with encountering stories directly from my neighbors I begun to look deeper into this topic of Housing Court and if there were any other Flatbush residents having similar experiences. Sure enough there was no short supply of stories coming from Flatbush of residents being forced out or evicted and facing a confusing and challenging legal system alone. One story as recent as April 15, 2014, from the NY Daily News sites a suit brought on by The Flatbush Development Corporation and the Flatbush Tenants Coalition with 11 tenants from the properties. In the case the two landlords were apparently trying to force the tenants out of their rent-stabilized apartments to make room for new renters who would pay market rates. The tenants said they were the victims of a systematic pattern of harassment, neglect and frivolous housing lawsuits designed to force them out and make room for new tenants paying double the rent. The group also claimed that the landlords, who bought the buildings in 2009, had neglected to do repairs in Black-occupied units. The landlords had also taken tenants to housing court with falsified claims and left rent checks uncashed in an attempt to evict rent-stabilized residents. (21) Many other such articles came up sighting Flatbush and

Photo: Flatbush Tenants Coalition

other Brooklyn landlords using tactics and frivolous cases though Housing Court to evict longer term tenants. Another such publication from the Brooklyn Daily stating that longtime residents of Flatbush Gardens Apartment complex were getting charged for having air conditioners in their windows and that the people who pay their rent but do not pay the monthly charges were being levied against and finding themselves facing eviction. The article would quote

Brooklyn Tenants Union Rally

a resident, “Some tenants are being taken to housing court for non-payment of rent,” Redmond explained. “What’s happening is that management is actually deducting the air conditioning fees from the rent, and claiming they are falling behind in the rent. They are going through the

43 Involvements

Coalition leaders Thomas, Elizabeth, Philomena, Ron, Curt, Thurston, Iva, Lloyd, and Lilian, (and Beverly in the back) with District Leader Rodneyse Bichotte celebrating “Housing Court on Trial.”

eviction process even though they are paying rent. That’s really huge.”



One of the more shocking of these stories was that which was cover by NPR’s WNYC group titled To Create Housing for Homeless, Landlords Evict Paying Tenants. In this radio episode NPR uncovered the reality that New York City has been paying landlords in low income communities much more for their apartments than what they could get on the open market. The result? Landlords are pushing out paying tenants to make room for the homeless. The story follows one 40 year-old Flatbush woman, who is facing eviction so her landlord can make way for homeless families that the city is placing in her building.

Research and Analysis of Housing Court After hearing so many stories from neighbors and member of the community and reading additional ones in the media reports I begin to see Housing Court as an area of true concern in today’s housing market especially for those in lower income areas like Flatbush. It appeared time and again that Housing Court was being used in many ways to benefit the Landlords as a tool for them to quickly evict tenants. In many ways the outward appearance of the system to handle disputes appeared dysfunctional and one sided. What could otherwise be an opportunity to stop and help struggling families who otherwise would not seek help was looking more like a bottle neck of a larger corrupt malfunctioning housing system. It was here that I decided to take a much closer look at Housing Court. My intentions at first were to merely investigate these stories and allegations of misuse in the system and uncover any illuminating details as to how the system could be improved.

Housing Court as a Market Indicator TO further strengthen my research, I used data from the 2014 Income and Affordability Study, by New York City Rent Guidelines Board of Housing Court as a general indicator of the health of New York City. While many studies may look at welfare and homelessness as clear data to the number of people that have fallen into severe economic hardship, Housing Court actually provides a window into see such individuals and families before then enter and access the system. Specifically, Housing Court actions are reviewed to determine the proportion of tenants who are unable to meet

45 Involvements

Housing Court Data Source: 2014 Income and Affordability Study, by New York City Rent Guidelines Board

their rental payments. To also measure the number of households experiencing the most severe affordability problems, and to track the number of evictions that have gone through the legal system. Very interesting, these reports indicated for the second consecutive year, non-payment filings in Housing Court actually decreased, falling 1.1%, to 215,497.54. As well, while the number of non-payment filings also decreased, resulting in the actual number court appearances (“calendared”) to fall by an even greater proportion, 7.8%. However, even though cases have fallen slightly in the last two year at 56.8% for the proportion of filings (“calendared”), it is still among the highest the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) has ever recorded. Even during some of the cities most troubling times in eviction the mid to late 1980s, an average rate was only 27.1% of non-payment filings were calendared.



If non-payment cases against public housing (NYCHA) tenants were taken out of the analysis, filings would have gone down by 2.2%, and calendared cases by 10.1%. Citywide this resulted in an eviction / possession rulings in 2013 to increase by almost two percentage points, rising from 21.6% to 23.6%. This would translates into 28,849 court decisions ruled for the tenant’s eviction from a total of 122,463 non-payment proceedings calendared. (24) The increase was due to the fact that the number of cases calendared decreased at a relatively fast pace, down 7.8%, while evictions rose slightly, by 0.4%. According the The Income and Affordability Study this has been highest level ever in the history of the study. As well, the proportion of evictions to calendared cases is now at its highest level since 1989. With this information several figures became alarming and somewhat contradicting to me. For one, was the increasing number of evictions which was dramatically adding to the homelessness population of the city. Two, that these evictions were taking place in record numbers despite the fact that income and employment was on the rise, and non-payment files were decreasing. And third, was the number of actual cases calendared were also decreasing. With good logic one would ask themselves how this could be possible?, non-payments and actual cases brought through the court were down but somehow evictions were up? If the number one reason for evictions was non payment, and those numbers were down, would the rate of evictions also not decrease? As well, if it takes going through housing court to legally evict a tenant then in order for evictions to rise wouldn’t cases heard also rise? It was in these questions and conflicting data that I realized this may be a trend that needed closer attention. Research Studies Examining Housing Court For quite some time Housing Court has been investigated periodically by various community rights organizations and has been documented in many studies. Housing Court itself has existed in New York City since 1973 and ever since then cases have been made shining light into some of the unfair and corrupt practices. Starting with the research paper Five Minute Justice--A Summary of The City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court in 1986. The research included observations of nearly 3,000 cases in every pre-trial, mediation, and trial parts citywide. In their study they discovered a few key findings: 1) As it functions today, the Court has little impact on

building maintenance. The findings showed that the majority of cases heard was for landlords who are seeking rent payments.

3) Overall, 79% of the tenants have no legal representation. In contrast, landlords were much more likely than tenants to be represented by an attorney with over 78% being represented citywide. As part of this study they had also outlined several areas that needed change early on: Their recommendations were:

• Mandated right to counsel for tenants unable to afford an attorney for all proceedings. • Revision of pre-trail hearing procedures to prevent “hallway stipulation.” That is, when either party is unrepresented by counsel, all negotiations must occur in the presence of court personnel. • “Clean hands” requirements of owners for buildings to correct serious violations of the City’s Housing Maintenance Code and in compliance with NYC tax payments before bringing non-paymnent actions into court. • Requirement that judges make use of computer terminals and inspections to identify existence of violations and insist that removal of part of any final judgment, whether tenant raises the issue or not. Requirement that such agreements make the payment of rent conditional on the completion of the necessary repairs. • Use of plain, multi-language court forms, which can be easily understood, and are not written in intimidating legalese. • Increased emphasis on enforcement of the Housing Maintenance Code, as originally mandated, including greater coordination between the Court and HPD, increased collection and “tracking” of fines, penalties and judgments levied in Housing Court. (28) Another well-known study was one released in 1993; The Donaldson Report (Donaldson vs. the State of New York). This report, confirmed the tremendous imbalance in the Housing Court system with 88% of tenants not being able to afford attorneys while 97% of landlords were represented

47 Involvements

2) Tenants in the Housing Court, largely represent the City’s most vulnerable population: 80 percent are Black or Hispanic; 66 percent are women; nearly 50 percent received some form of public assistance.



by counsel. The study also showed that 66% of tenants were eligible for free legal assistance but most were unable to get it thanks to lack of funding for legal providers. The study also found that Tenants facing Housing court in NYC are more than likely African American or Latina, is unable to afford or obtain a lawyer, and lives in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. As well:

• Each year resulting in an average of 25,000 evictions. • Each year close to half (44%) of the households entering homeless shelters became homeless through evictions. • A Diminishing number of community-based organizations assist tenants before they go to court • Most tenants have no help for habitable building conditions, gain access to needed government benefits, or obtain basic answers about the legal notices or court proceedings. • When tenants are represented in proceedings they are generally allowed to stay in their homes. • By providing counsel to these tenants $67 mil in public funds could be saved each year. • The city’s shelter system in under increasing pressure and spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in temporary and hundreds of millions more on permanent housing • The NYC Human Resources Admin. has a program for families in Housing Court. Funded to provide counsel to 10,000 tenants. Good step by far too short. (Not sure if still funded) • The City Wide Task Force on Housing Court (CWTFHC) has information tables for pro se litigants at the court. (not sure if still exist) The community Training Resources (CTRC) runs tenant education and outreach programs. Through their work they have recognized that tenants in Housing Court have a critical need for accurate information and competent legal representation. • Recognized “as of right” the CWTFHC with other groups and individuals filed suit against NYC, the State, and other defendants in Donaldson V. State of New York. • Also undertook surveys (“Housing Court survey”) and study (“file study”) (29)

Eviction Trends If we were to just analyze the eviction trends alone based on the Residential Evictions by Marshals in NYC, we can see this alarming increase in the numbers being reported from 2006- 2013. Another interesting part of the data was the

300000 250000


Eviction Trends


Source: 2014 Income and Affordability Study, by New York City Rent Guidelines Board




150000 100000 50000 0

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

recording of foreclosures in New York City. As one would assume this to be another indicator of health for the city. As we can see these foreclosures have actually decreased steadily. In many ways the two appear to work in opposite directions. This may due to different demographics in those housing sectors and different factors that affect their economic stability. If we are to base our assumptions on the data that shows renters on average as being in a lower income bracket, then we can also assume that the factors in play are affect only these individuals. Meaning disproportionately those facing the loss of their homes tends to be those in the lower income levels. The charts below shows the number of non payments filed in Housing Court each year, the number of non payments assigned a court date (calendared) , the number of Orders to Show Cause filed, and the number of evictions performed by a marshal. (25) In looking at the data from the NYC Civil Court and NYC Dept. of Investigations we can see some definite trends in Housing Court over the past 16 years. Most noticeably we can see what the other research has shown that nonpayment cases filed have significantly dropped. However, what became alarming in this graph was the data showing the start and dramatic increase in what is titled “Orders to Show Cause Filed�. It would appear that either the this practice only started around 2003 or had just then started being recorded. From that point these Order to Show Cause filings have




skyrocketed to almost reaching equal numbers of nonpayment cases. Being that these filings are tied to and result in the actions of evictions it would appear that it is precisely because of these filing eviction rates have increased while cased calendered and non payments have decreased. Involvements


Orders to Show Cause Upon learning about Order to Show Cause filings and the data reflecting their dramatic increase in use by landlords, I developed a better understanding on the direct cause to how evictions where increasing despite the improving economy. It was more or less a means to evict tenants for other reasons than non-payment and quite possibly avoiding to go through the Housing Court “Calendered” system. I also concluded if we were to better understand these Order to Show Cause filings then we may be able find remedies in how to prevent or reduce their numbers. With further investigation into the Orders to Show Cause practice I found myself very lost and confused in simply trying to understanding what it actually detailed. Like many judicial practices the language used to describing the filings and the rituals one needs to take in order to navigate through the system where all to vague and eluting. As a first means of reference in learning more about Orders to Show Cause I visited the website for their explanation. In short they give a general description as the following: “An Order to Show Cause is way to present to a judge the reasons why the court should order relief to a party. For example, a party can seek an order granting discovery, or dismissing all or part of an action by bringing an Order to Show Cause. The Order to Show Cause differs from a motion, because it can shorten the required notice time to the other parties. Since there are strict requirements as to how to make a motion, it is much easier to come to court in person and fill out an Order to Show Cause.” (26) Of course in reading this description it did very little for me in understand what these filing were for or how they were playing out in Housing Court and Evictions. However, with some further readings I was able to come up with a few basic understandings of these filings: 1) An Order to Show Cause can be claim against the defendant, in this case the tenant, for any number of reasons. They could include anything from noise complaints to air

conditioners in the windows. 2) In order to file an Order to Show Cause one needs very little. Unlike nonpayment filings that may require extensive documentation, Orders to Show Cause can simply be filed by filling out a proposal in which you just have to describe your problem with the defendant. 3) Submit an Affidavit in Support. Again this can simply be one’s sworn word of the allegations or complaints. No witness needed. No proof or documentation. Only in very few cases will the Judge even ask Plaintiff, In this case the landlord or attorney, to even explain their case in person. (27) As well, it has been understood that in many cases when the Plaintiff is notified or served there can be little to no real explanation to why they are being summoned to Housing Court. Furthermore, when arriving to Housing Court even on the first appearance the Judge will in most cases make their decision at that time, whether or not the plaintiff / tenant is prepared to defend themselves. One can only image how this practice has can play out on the larger picture as landlords find this to be a much quicker and easier way to evict tenants for any number of reasons.



Visits to Housing Court In making my visits, I decided to outline a few key objectives in aiding my research. These objectives were as follows: 1) Attempt to speak with a Housing Court volunteer attorney to gain more information and insight into what steps or recommendations there where for a tenant facing an appearance in Housing Court. 2) Obtain as much information and literature on the Housing Court system and see on a firsthand account the types of resources and communication that are available to a defendant / tenant. 3) To experience what the Housing Court environment and facilities are like when one has to make a visit to find resources and answers.

Exterior of Brooklyn Housing Court, on Livingston

A. Resources available in Housing Court Building



B. A single receptionist to answer questions

As one might imagine entering in the Housing

C. Bottleneck effect to speak to clerk through a small window to get answers



Court building is no enjoyable matter. After making my rounds through the gauntlet of security checkpoints I quickly found how poorly maintained and unorganized the entire building was. As most do I navigated my way through the maze of a building to the help center in the third floor to meet a line of people stretching down the hall and blocking the elevators. While there are posters on most walls advertising website resources I did not notice anyone even knowing they existed. After waiting for the help desk to return from lunch I was able to speak with the desk assistant who informed me that without a case of file in the court I would unfortunately not be able to ever speak with a volunteer attorney. Understandably, this was due to the sheer overload of individuals lined

up to get pressing information. So with my first object ruled out I continued on.



In order to find actual printed literature to take home with me I did have to go on a bit of a scavenger hunter to the floor. After once again getting through the labyrinth I found myself at the tenants Clerk office, which consisted a large waiting room with bulletproof glass windows for the clerks. In the far off corner as shown the photo above [photo B] I was able to discover their host of literature for those who wish to educate themselves. In terms of conditions and environment one can easily see in the final image how the entire system appears to be constructed. In this photo [photo C] it shows the hallway leading to the volunteer attorney’s office on the third floor. Groups of people crowded and bottled necked at the door desperately seeking answers to the confusing, frustrating, and terrifying process of being confronted with possible evictions or lawsuits.

Resources available While my visits to the actual Housing Court may have turned up empty handed in terms of finding answers and resources my extensive research online and through organizations I was able to uncover multiple other areas one could go to in order to find help or assistance in going through Housing court. Overwhelming the data would show that in cases where the tenants are facing possible evictions there best possible chance in court would be with an attorney to represent them. However, as we know funding for free legal services in Housing Court was removed from the budget some time turning the Clinton administration and since then we have seen the results with the drastic increases in evictions and lastly homelessness. As quoted in the 2005, the Vera Institute that “only one quarter of homeless families had ever even sought help in fighting their eviction�

Conclusion Through this research of studying the area of Flatbush, its demographics, and the issues faces such parts of the city I have found what I believe to be a major factor and proponent in the housing instability of New York City. As I have come

to understand that neighborhoods like Flatbush, with its predominate immigrant and minority population, are especially susceptible to unscrupulous landlord and rental practices that often result in their eviction. It is in these areas where incomes to rent ratios are much higher than average but profit margins for properties owners are lower. We may be only able to speculate why or how landlords are finding ways to evict tenants in using these practices of “Orders to Show Cause�. However we do know that there is a sharp increase in these fillings which has resulted in record high evictions despite rise in income and employment. As they saying goes in American football to create a good offense you must create a good defense. With consistent reductions to budget for such services as free legal services we cannot expect such aid to come soon to these individuals. However, there are things we can do to help people facing such circumstances.

Suggestions for change As a formally train designer, I see in many ways how powerful clear communication can be, especially when facing a confusing and chaotic situation like one would face in housing court. The system itself with its limited resources needs to work more efficiently and get people the answers they need more effectively. The chosen route has been to try make accessing resources as difficult as possible, probably in the hope that this would reduce their numbers as people will give up in the process or not try at all. This needs to change and access to information needs to be more readily available, clear and understandable with as little legal jargon as possible, as well as be available in multiple languages. Furthermore I would add that this information and or literature should be provided to all tenants long before they ever encounter any problems. This would be best if by law one had to provide information to anyone signing a lease in the New York area. Following this information and resources need to be available at every community health organization and Housing Court building. By providing such information in the hallways that one can take a read on their own this just might alleviate the bottleneck of people found waiting outside of all help desks. Creating an attractive, colorful, informative, material that reduces any intimidation in reading. Please see included examples of working and currently being tested resource pamphlets




1. (,_Brooklyn 2. Flatbush the Neighborhood History Guide 3. Social History of Flatbush 1899, by Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbuilt 4. Confronting the Housing Squeeze: Challenges Facing Immigrant Tenants, and What New York Can Do 5. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, The Health of Flatbush 6. Flatbush Demographics & Statistics — Employment, Education, Income Averages, Crime in Flatbush 7. CAMBA Flatbush Promise Neighborhood Initiative - 2011 8. New York City Rent Guidelines Board 2014 Income and Affordability Study 9. Unemployment Rates by County, New York State, March 2014 10. 2000 U.S. Census 11. NYSCAAs 2013 Poverty Report 12. Flatbush People & Flatbush Demographics - Zillow Local Info 13. Brooklyn’s New Gentrification Frontiers, New York Times(1 14. 2014 Income and Affordability Study, by New York City Rent Guidelines Board 15. Rental Vacancy Rate, 16. NYC dot Gov brooklynprofile 17. Dept.. of Homeless Services rates 18. The 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development 19. Coalition for the Homeless, 20. UNDERSTANDING FAMILY HOMELESSNESS IN NEW YORK

CITY An In-Depth Study of Families’ Experiences Before and After Shelter 21. Brooklyn landlords illegally harassed, targeted rent-stabilized tenants: suit from the NY Daily News brooklyn/landlords-harassed-targeted-rentstabilized-tenants-suit-article-1.1757051 22. Established Tenants Fear Tides of Change at Flatbush Gardens, Courier’s Life, brooklyn daily 23. NPR’s WNYC group titled To Create Housing for Homeless, Landlords Evict Paying Tenants. 24. Civil Court of the City of New York data 25. (25) NYC Civil Court and NYC Dept. of Investigations). based on information provided by the NYC Dept. of Investigation, Bureau of City Marshals. 26. shtml 27. Self-Rep%20Forms/How%20to%20OSC.pdf 28. Five Minute Justice--A Summary of The CityWide Task Force on Housing Court in 1986. 29. The Donaldson Report (Donaldson vs. the State of New York)


A culmination of 2 years of my work as an urbanist, researching and dwelling.


A culmination of 2 years of my work as an urbanist, researching and dwelling.