Read

Search form

Sunset Park Rent Strikers to Stage Sleep-In

Sunset Park Rent Strikers to Stage Sleep-In
Wed, 7/18/2012
This article originally appeared on Occupied Wall Street Journal

Photo: Sunset Parkerpix 

On what may be one of the hottest nights of the year, dozens of rent strikers and their families, members of Occupy Sunset Park and supporters will gather for a vigil at 6 p.m. tomorrow in front of 553-46th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to protest the inhumane, unsafe, illegal and deplorable living conditions in the three adjacent buildings owned by one of the city’s worst landlords. The group will then hold a sleep-in on the sidewalk starting at 9 p.m. in front of their sweltering, decrepit buildings, in which the electricity sputters out every 15 minutes.

The following morning, tenants will conduct a people’s inspection of the buildings. Residents have been told by the the Department of Housing and Preservation Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo that their landlord, Orazio Petito of Peto Management, has until Thursday to start critical electrical repairs.

For years residents at three adjacent buildings in Sunset Park have been living in fear of fires and electrical blackouts. “No one sleeps much in these three buildings,” Laura Gottesdiener reported on Waging Nonviolence. “In the winter there’s no heat, in the summer there’s no electricity, and all year there are rats and cockroaches scurrying in the walls.” Despite numerous complaints made to city agencies and politicians’ offices, documented housing violations — including unsafe electrical wiring, a broken boiler and disease-triggering agents like mold, vermin and bed bugs — continue to threaten the lives of dozens of residents.

These three buildings are in danger of fire. We could die!” the banner reads“I’m living in a nightmare,” Sara Lopez, 64, who lives at 553 46th Street, told the Daily News, adding that she saw sparks shooting out of the fuse box last week. “This building is about to catch fire,” she said.

While many of these violations have persisted for years, the situation became more dire in recent months as the buildings underwent foreclosure. Petito has refused to complete necessary repairs and continues to insist that tenants pay their rent. In the meantime, a cheap plastic fan is being used to keep the basement’s electrical box — which looks like a middle-school science fair project gone horribly wrong — from overheating and catching fire.

In apartments that include a pregnant woman with two children, disabled tenants and individuals with chronic conditions, residents went without heat and hot water during the winter months. Today they face the threat of more blackouts and fear an electrical fire if they use much-needed air conditioning during this season of record-breaking heat. For many residents, waiting weeks for a court order poses an intolerable risk to their lives.

“Do we have to wait for a tragedy before we see action?” Lopez said.

On July 5, the affected tenants and various community members and allies, including members of Occupy Sunset Park and Occupy Wall Street, held a rally to stress the urgency of the repairs. The rally was immediately followed by a march to New York State assemblyman Felix Ortiz’s office. Ortiz was elected by Sunset Park residents and personally promised Sara and other tenants that he would work to resolve their unsafe housing dilemma. After weeks of no action, the tenants occupied his office and demanded a meeting last Monday. An inspection was promised, but repairs have yet to be made.

Tenants have made it clear that if their demands for immediate repairs are not made, they will consider taking matters into their own hands, utilizing the support from groups like Take Back the Land and Occupy Wall Street to take on the emergency repairs. Such a step would mark the first such tenant mobilization effort in Brooklyn in recent memory.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Nicaraguan indigenous struggles, Miskitu people, Mayagna people, Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, North Caribbean Autonomous Region, colonos, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

Settlers are attacking indigenous communities with automatic firearms, killing, plundering and forcing residents to flee their ancestral lands, while foreign companies have entered the territory illegally and are burning the region at a rapid rate.

rising inequality, wealth inequality, wealth gap, rising incomes, growing unemployment, Great Recession, housing crisis

Recent research published about the Great Recession adds to the already clear evidence that rising inequality translates into nearly all of today's winnings going to the wealthy.

Jeremy Corbyn, MPs

The anti-Corbyn forces within Labour might very well have achieved the complete opposite of what they aimed to achieve.

shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Democratic National Convention, DNC, DNC protests, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Bernie supporters, Food & Water Watch, March for a Clean Energy Future

More than 10,000 people calling for a “clean energy revolution” filled the streets here Sunday.

Posted 4 days 19 hours ago

Bernie Sanders supporters traveled to Philadelphia from every corner of the country this week to show their enduring support for his candidacy.

Posted 2 days 15 hours ago
All Lives Matter protesters come together for a group hug with join Black Lives Matter activists in Dallas at Park Ln & Fair Oaks Ave. July 10th.

In recent weeks, the Southern Poverty Law Center has received a number of requests to name Black Lives Matter a hate group. In our view, these critics fundamentally misunderstand the nature of hate groups and the BLM movement.

Posted 4 days 19 hours ago
Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Bernie protesters, progressives, Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, Migrants Rights March, Juntos, immigrant rights, Democracy Spring

We’re supposed to have a government of and by the people, but the government we have is only interested in protecting the rights of big corporations and billionaires.

Posted 3 days 6 hours ago

This week, as the DNC rages on, we're talking state surveillance – digging deep into the past and present with surveillance expert, Chip Gibbons from Defending Dissent

Posted 2 days 15 hours ago
Democratic National Convention, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Bernie protesters, progressives, Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders, Migrants Rights March, Juntos, immigrant rights, Democracy Spring

We’re supposed to have a government of and by the people, but the government we have is only interested in protecting the rights of big corporations and billionaires.

shady financial practices, financial crimes, Dodd-Frank Act, Roosevelt Institute, too big to fail, Glass-Steagall Act, Gerald Epstein, Juan Antonio Montecino

The average U.S. household loses over $100,000 to destructive activities of bankers and financiers.

employees with criminal records, criminal justice system, Dave’s Killer Bread, Hot Chicken Takeover, POP! Gourmet Foods, Drive Change, Greyston Bakery, banning the box

Companies like Hot Chicken Takeover, POP! Gourmet Foods, and Greyston Bakery are breaking down barriers.

More than $50 billion in foreign aid is pumped into Africa annually – but did you know that roughly the same amount is illicitly siphoned out of the continent?

marijuana legalization, cannabis legalization, legalized weed, Adult Use of Marijuana Act, AUMA, Monsanto, GMOs, seed patents, George Soros, corporate marijuana takeover

With the cannabis industry predicted to generate over $13 billion by 2020, there should be little doubt that companies like Monsanto are simply waiting for Uncle Sam to remove herb from Schedule I.