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Brooklyn Tenants Rally For One of Their Own Outside Housing Court

Tenant leader Fidele Albert is fighting to keep her apartment with the support of her fellow housing activists.

Amba Guerguerian Mar 30, 2023

A line of mostly elderly tenants waited outside of Brooklyn Housing Court this morning at 9 a.m. They looked on as about 30 members of Brooklyn’s tenant movement faced a sharp, biting wind as they rallied in front of the Downtown Brooklyn building. The rallying call, in solidarity with tenant leader Fidele Albert, who had a court appearance today, was to “Ban Winter Evictions.”

“We shall not be/We shall not be moved,” sang a lively group of members of various organizations including Crown Heights Tenant Union (CHTU), Brooklyn Eviction Defense (BED), the Flatbush Tenant Coalition (FTC), the Metropolitan Council on Housing, Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH), Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and the Amazon Labor Union. 

They held signs that read “The courts are prioritizing speed over justice,” “Abolish eviction without cause,” and “Abolish winter evictions.” One of the attendees was arrested just yesterday in Albany for protesting inside the state capitol for the passage of a bill that would outlaw evicting tenants without a specific “good cause.” 

“We’re here today to fight alongside a stalwart of the tenant movement,” said Joel Feingold. 

“We will continue to show up for Fidele wherever and whenever she needs us,” added Khadija Hussain of BED. “We can only rely on each other and a militant tenant movement.” 

“It is better to go down fighting and die than not to fight and still die,” said Albert, a member of FTC, CHTU and BED. 

“Don’t wait until a situation arises to find a tenant organization,” she said to cheering supporters. “All of us are family. We are a tenant family. If some of us don’t have a story right now, sometime down the road, there will be a story, and with that, you need support.”

Tenants support each other by packing housing court, fixing a tenant’s lock or plumbing issue — or even camping out with someone at their residence to ward off eviction enforcers. 

Albert has been living in her Flatbush apartment for nearly seven years. Around three years ago, landlord harassment began, she says. This has included being locked out of her bathroom and not given access to the kitchen, having no access to a shower for an extended amount of time, and having her electricity shut off. Even cameras have been installed in her kitchen and bathroom, says Albert. 

Albert is now being subjected to an eviction case, for “purely retaliatory” reasons, according to CHTU. The tenant union says that Albert’s landlord, David Spindler, sought the eviction after Albert led members of the tenant movement in a direct action that turned turned her electricity back on. 

“Fidele was attending meetings on Zoom from in her bedroom and we could see that she was in the dark!” Joel Feingold of CHTU told The Indypendent. 

In recent months, Albert and her supporters have organized at least a half dozen public solidarity actions around her case. It is commonplace for tenant-rights groups to rally in support of members that are facing landlord harassment. That might look like packing housing court, fixing a tenant’s lock or plumbing issue — or even camping out with a tenant at their residence to ward off eviction enforcers. 

In addition to an end to Albert’s eviction case, the groups at the rally are calling for an end to winter evictions, the passage of the good-cause eviction legislation and that courts stop processing eviction cases until all tenants enjoy the right to counsel, as guaranteed by city law. 

“Banning winter evictions is the bare minimum,” said Khadija Hanes of CPUSA. “That’s what capitalism does. It makes you stretch yourself thin to fight for the bare minimum.”

At today’s hearing, Brooklyn Housing Court Judge Kevin McClanahan sent the case to trial. At the next court date, in mid-August, the judge will hear the defense’s argument that Albert is facing a retaliatory eviction.

“Why is the government even involved in throwing people out of their homes?” Longtime Brooklyn housing organizer Michael Hollingsworth posed, speaking to The Indy at the rally. “You’re breaking up families. You’re breaking up communities. You’re breaking up neighborhoods. Why is the government involved in that?”

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