This week's Indypendent has an engaging and arousing cover story "Rumble in El Barrio", a report on the five year struggle between tenants in East Harlem and landlord Steven Kessner, and then with London based investment bank Dawnay, Day as the tenants carried the fight over after Steven sold 47 buildings to the firm. A fight which recently culminated with Dawnay, Day collapsing.
The reporter Jennifer Janisch writes, "After nearly two years of community organizing, demonstrations, an innovative lawsuit and international campaigning, Movement for Justice in El Barrio (MJB) — an East Harlem collective of mostly Mexican immigrants — is calling its battle with failed financial-services firm Dawnay, Day 'a triumph of David and Goliath proportions.'"
According to the article, Dawnay, Day's purchase of the buildings at the time was their only investment in real estate in the U.S., and followed a pattern of purchases made by investment groups throughout nyc during the last few years who snapped up rent-regulated buildings at heretofore untold valuations, as images of displacing residents followed by humongous profits danced in their heads. As the London Times reported on the purchase at the time,
"Dawnay, Day’s investment in East Harlem represents a huge gamble on the rapid gentrification of the couple of square miles north of 100th Street." The Times continued, "Mr Blakeley said that he had been attracted partly by the legal system for the leasings market...Once a tenant moves out, the chance to renovate and re-let at open market rates can offer the chance to raise the rent tenfold, which at the same time massively increases the capital value of the building."Hoping to force tenants out of the buildings and then attract a well-heeled clientele who would pay far more than the apts. were fetching at the time, Dawnay, Day made two bad bets; One on the market, and one on the tenacity of tenants, who Dawnay imagined would go easy. But Jennifer Janisch writing for the Indypendent quotes Juan Haro, a resident of El Barrio who helped organize the tenants, as having a message for Dawnay, Day. "Welcome to El Barrio. We will not be moved, we are here to stay. You may not know this, but you bought buildings where tenants are organized." Hello.
Read the full article here. Great stuff, ready made for the big screen actually. At the very least a small screen at the Maysles.
Unfortunately, as newsworthy a story this is, with it's likable narrative and relevant story line in today's economic climate, it's not a story that is getting much press from NY papers and tv. And maybe because as perfect a story it is, and as celebratory as it might be, I'm not sure how much the National Press likes to go around highlighting the accomplishments you will achieve if you organize.
If you still want to read more, The Nation and Counter-Punch are two other pinko commie rags that have run a story on this.