After leading a three-year rent strike and protesting shoddy living conditions at her Flatbush apartment building, Janice Broadie is being evicted.
While the landlord at 1111 Ocean Avenue has taken Broadie to court over the non-payment of rent, her neighbors are rushing to her defense. They held a rally outside Brooklyn Housing Court on June 5, and said the landlord’s lack of care for the building made the strike necessary.
Broadie, who has helped organize her neighbors in various forms of protest against their landlord, including withholding rent since June of 2020, says she stands by her decision, despite potentially being booted from her home — as the once-beautiful building has deteriorated into a dilapidated shell of itself.
When her rent strike first began, the building had roughly 200 serious violations including broken elevators, leaks, caved ceilings, and backed up garbage.
“Our whole basis for doing this strike was to bring this building back to the glory it once was. I mean they let [the building] down. This was a beautiful building,” she told the Brooklyn Paper. “It’s mind boggling how they let something like this just go down.”
According to a spokesperson with the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, an organization to which Broadie belongs, the building has at least 17 Rent Impairing Violations, an infraction considered especially egregious to the tenants’ safety.
Andrew R. Butler, a tenant at the Ocean Avenue building and an organizer with the coalition, says some of those violations at the building include damaged fire escapes, leaks in public spaces, and structural damage.
If landlords do not address rent impairing violations within six months of being notified, tenants of the building do not have to pay rent as long as in poor conditions go unresolved. Butler said the team is hoping this will clear up the Broadie of her eviction case and bring long-awaited improvements to the apartment.
“We will fight until the building is safe, until it is habitable, until it is clean [and] until we are treated with respect,” Butler told the Brooklyn Paper. “We have the right to withhold rent when conditions are bad in the building. Where our landlord is not living up to their half of the agreement of the contractual agreement of the lease. We are going to exercise that right until they get their act together and start actually managing and taking care of the buildings as they are obligated to do.”
Bryan Welton, one of Broadie’s neighbors in the building, said they hoped to use the Rent Impairing Violation laws as a way to overturn Broadie’s eviction case, which would help the building collectively bargain for improvements.
“Rather than passively watching our daily living conditions degrade, after years of inaction in response to individual complaints and unpaid fines, we organize and strike because we recognize that our collective power works to build the pressure needed to improve our intolerable situation,” Welton said .
Since the rent strike began, the complex residents have held multiple rallies, including one earlier this year when they announced they would be suing the alleged building owner Sam Wasserman. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the city agency tenants turn to when seeking housing justice, 1111 Ocean Avenue currently has 288 violations and tenants have reportedly made 604 complaints to 311 with the most common issues being related to water leaks, pests, heat, and hot water.
Broadie said tenants are only fighting for one thing – efficient housing.
“We just want a decent place to live,” Broadie said. “I’m hoping the outcome will be that we will be able to get repairs, especially the repairs around the common areas where it affects all tenants.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.