Dec 2021-Jan 2022
By Alice Pote
On Saturday, November 13th, residents at Grant Manor Apartments in Boston rallied to call for tenant board elections and for the ouster of the current corrupt board. Residents and activists spoke out strongly denouncing the corruption and intimidation they have been living with for years, and called out the current board’s efforts to stop elections from taking place.
The current board has ruled the building for years, setting up corrupt deals and selling out the residents while intimidating those who speak out against it. A major rallying point for residents is a $20 million dollar loan to the building which the board signed off on in secrecy, indebting the building to the big banks. The loan is supposedly going to pay for some improvements to the building, but in the meantime residents’ rents have already gone up to pay off the loan and there have been no improvements made.
Residents who exposed the fraudulent nature of this loan and how the board was acting on behalf of the big banks to take over the building were given eviction notices for speaking out and threatened by the building’s security guards. But when the management tried to shut residents down, they responded by getting more organized and fighting back. Now for over a year there have been regular meetings, protests, outreach efforts, and more. Not a single organizer has been evicted, and a judge ruled that the board must allow for elections to take place on December 15th, 2021, although as of January the board continues to delay.
The current tenant board has been in office over fifteen years, even though the building’s by-laws clearly stipulate that elections must be held every two years. They are stalling and delaying new elections at every opportunity, even after getting a court order to hold the elections. For the current board a lot is at stake, because once residents elect a new board they’ll be able to see all of the building’s financial accounts and records, so all of the corrupt dealing which the current board is involved in will come to light.
The struggle at Grant Manor has a long legacy. In the 1990’s residents came together to oppose an effort to outright privatize the building, and were able to successfully ensure that the building became partially tenant-owned instead of just being handed over to some real estate company. The neighborhood in which Grant Manor is located, Boston’s South End / Lower Roxbury, is also a hot-spot for gentrification. The city, alongside the big banks and real estate companies, is making pretty transparent efforts to transform the area from a low-income, mostly Black neighborhood into an “up-and-coming” place for yuppies to live and commute into fancy tech jobs in downtown Boston.
Grant Manor resident Haywood Fennel summed it up well at the protest:
“We need an election…we don’t need the same people. We’re not going to have the same people. We have not benefited at all. We have allowed the enemy to come in our camp, and say that we’ve gotta pay more rent, you’ve gotta ride on broke elevators, and we’re going to hold this $20 million dollars until we get ready to do what we want to do, which is get you outta here. These apartments can become condos if we’re not careful!”
A Message of Solidarity from Boston University StudentsA small group of students from Boston University attended to show our support for the residents of Grant Manor who were holding a rally for upcoming board elections. Some of us had been out to different projects around Boston along with other UFAD members, but for some of the group it was the first time that they had came out to support the community organizing. As a student it is easy to become completely caught up in the bubble colleges tend to create, and many BU students never seem to venture much further than Newbury Street. This needs to change. Students need to go into the communities that their schools are in, and support the people. The struggle at Grant Manor is a great example of this. Talking to residents it was clear that they appreciated us showing our support for them and for us it was really powerful to see the work that they had done so far. Especially because colleges across the country are a major gentrifying force it is key that students themselves rally against gentrification. We hope that the rally at Grant Manor was just the first step for students and that we will see more and more students actually engaging and working with the community to fight the big money interests and corrupt politicians pushing the gentrification scheme.