Fighting Back in Brooklyn

By Danaysia Brown

Activists stormed the streets of Brooklyn September 9 to protest gentrification. Brooklyn’s Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) lead the protest, the borough’s first march against gentrification, racism, and police violence.

Over the past few years, BAN’s following has grown. The network uses its platform to get the attention of politicians and public officials. It is asking the City Council to stop gentrifying areas that leave the longtime residents displaced, or to provide rent stabilized houses.

The City Council, according to BAN, did not appear to be responding to its requests.

Alicia Boyd, one of the main organizers of BAN, said the protesters had applied for a sound permit in July to hold the first rally in front of the Barclays Center, but that it was rejected without an explanation.

“We know that this in Laurie Cumbo’s district, she knows that we are anti-Laurie because of the Bedford-Union Armory, and she knows that this is a way for her to get back at us, to deny us our sound permit,” Boyd said. (Later an NYPD spokesperson said the permit was rejected, but approved for a location near Barclays Center.)

Several of the protesters shared their stories about how gentrification changed their lives, and what they witnessed it do to others.

Jackie Bedtiako is a writer, student, and former resident of Kensington in Brooklyn. While living in Kensington she says she witnessed and experienced the effects of gentrification. “In my building in Kensington, you had tenants, black tenants, who have been living there for years really getting harassed and getting pushed out by management to replace them with white tenants that were moving in because the building,” she said.

Homelessness and displacement was a common complaint of protesters.

“I can’t afford my rent right now,” said a mother of two and former resident of downtown Brooklyn. She asked for her name not to be revealed in the story. “If they plan to do all this other stuff,” she said, pointing to the Atlantic Yard modifications, which consist of a skyscraper, a café, and a mall, “it’s going to get worse, the effect of gentrification is absolutely negative. This right here, all of that, is gentrification.”

She added that the city did not seem to be assisting the displaced find a new homes or property.

“I used to live in this neighborhood before I was moved to Crown Heights,” she said. “There was a lady who used to own a shop right where Barclays Center stands. She ain’t there no more. She moved down the block and eventually she had to shut it down. That ain’t right, it’s bad for small business too.”

The main reason BAN had chosen to hold the rally in Bushwick was to make stops at places like apartment developments and New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton’s office. It was also to remind people to vote in the September 12 municipal primary.

“Tuesday, we have the chance to change some really deep shit in our communities,” organizer Alicia Boyd said.

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