Posted 10 months ago on July 18, 2012, 1:46 p.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
ON HOTTEST NIGHT, BROOKLYN RENT STRIKERS TO HOLD A 'SIDEWALK SLEEP-IN' FOLLOWED BY A PEOPLE'S INSPECTION THE FOLLOWING DAY
Where: 553-46th Street Brooklyn, NY
When: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Vigil: starting at 6 PM
Sleep-in: starting at 9 pm
On what may well be one of the hottest summer nights of 2012, on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in front of 553-46th Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, dozens of rent strikers, their families, members of Occupy Sunset Park, and supporters will gather for a vigil at 6 pm and will then hold a sleep-in on the sidewalk starting at 9 pm in front of their sweltering, decrepit buildings 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 following morning, tenants will conduct a people's inspection of the buildings. Tenants have been told by the the Department of Housing and Preservation (HPD) Deputy Commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo that their landlord, Orazio Petito of Petito Management, has until July 19th to commence critical electrical repairs.
For years residents at three adjacent buildings in Sunset Park, Brooklyn (545, 553, and 557 on 46th St) have been living in fear of fires and electrical blackouts. 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, cockroaches, rats, and bed bugs) continue to threaten the lives of dozens of residents.
While many of these violations have persisted for years, the situation became more dire in recent months as the buildings underwent foreclosure. The buildings’ owner, Orazio Petito, has refused to do 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 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. 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?” asked tenant leader Sara Lopez.
On July 5th, 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 Felix Ortiz’s office. Felix Ortiz, a New York State assemblyman elected by Sunset Park residents, personally promised Sara and other tenants that he would work to resolve their unsafe housing dilemma. After weeks of no action, the tenants occupied Felix Ortiz’s office and demanded this Monday’s meeting.
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 represent the first such tenant mobilization effort in Brooklyn in recent memory.