For Immediate Release
What: Emergency Protest to Stop the Privatization of Harlem River Houses
Where: Brigadier General Charles Young Triangle (North of Harlem River Houses, at Macombs & W153rd)
When: 2:00pm on Saturday, February 19, 2022
In a zoom meeting last week with tenants at the Harlem River Houses NYCHA public housing project, notorious slumlord C+C management announced that they will soon officially take over the project and that residents will have to pay their rent to C+C in March. The United Front Against Displacement has called an emergency protest to stop the privatization of Harlem River Houses, which will lead to displacement, gentrification, and evictions, as privatization has at other NYCHA developments such as Ocean Bay in Far Rockaway.
Last month, Human Rights Watch released a report that NYCHA’s privatization of public housing “has negatively impacted the right to housing of low-income residents by leading to a reduction in oversight and crucial protections for tenants’ rights.”
Tenants from Harlem River Houses and across the city will gather to protest C+C’s takeover of Harlem River Houses and the privatization of NYCHA. A protest last May saw tenants from all five boroughs came out to stand with residents at Harlem River Houses. Last summer, tenants wrote a series of appeal letters to HUD, documenting legal and health violations by NYCHA and C+C which should disqualify the project from being privatized until they are addressed. This prompted HUD to open an investigation into these violations, which has still not reached its conclusion.
NYCHA has neglected Harlem River Houses for years, leaving residents to deal with lack of heat and hot water, mold, cockroach infestations, and more on a regular basis. Now with C+C set to take over, residents fear that things will only get worse.
At Linden Houses in East New York, C+C took over management of the development December 29, 2021, the day after HUD approved the takeover. C+C immediately shut off the heat in the building, during some of the coldest weeks of the winter, and gave residents space heaters. Given the recent deadly fire in the Bronx, tenants are concerned that they could face a similarly fatal inferno in the future because of this privatization.
Tenants at Harlem River Houses have been organizing for over a year to stop this privatization, to get their apartments properly fixed, and to ensure that their rights do not continue to be violated. C+C’s announcement that they will officially be taking over comes during an ongoing campaign by tenants to demand a real election be held for Tenant Association representatives. The current Tenant Association president is pro-privatization and has sat on the Board for over 13 years. TA bylaws state that a president serves for a three-year term and that elections must happen every February. In just two weeks of outreach, tenants have gathered 45 signatures to support this effort.
Many tenants have refused to sign leases with C+C, despite efforts by the management company to strong- arm them into signing. Now, C+C is saying that with the takeover, the tenants must sign a “Temporary Move Agreement” to leave their homes. However, during other privatizations these have been used as a pretext for preventing tenants from returning, so many tenants are also refusing to sign.
The protest this Saturday is a rejection of NYCHA Chair Greg Russ and Mayor Eric Adams’ big push to privatize all of NYCHA as soon as possible. Tenants and organizers are making it clear that public housing should be kept public, and that they will refuse to comply with efforts to hand over projects like Harlem River Houses to the big banks and slumlord management companies like C+C.