Development Spurs Tenant Harassment in Bronx, Groups Say


Members of Bronx tenant groups protested outside Bronx Housing Court on Thursday, October 15.

Marc Bussanich

Members of Bronx tenant groups protested outside Bronx Housing Court on Thursday, October 15.

Community organizations in the Bronx say residential and commercial tenants in areas around the Kingsbridge Armory and the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning are seeing higher rents and more harassment.

"Many landlords seem to use lately as their business model pushing tenants out of their apartments, taking people to court when they don't actually owe money, not providing services, threatening tenants who organize a tenants' association or even something as simple as call 311 to make a complaint," said Margaret Groarke, a member of the Northwest Bronx Community Clergy Coalition. "We want to say that we need to put a stop to this and we need housing court to take these reports of harassment seriously and do something to make it cost landlords when they harass tenants."

After 20 years of debate, the city decided in late 2013 to approve the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory, a massive structure on the corner of Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue, into an ice-sports center. Developers signed an unusually extensive community benefits agreement with local groups, promising local hiring and adherence to ambitious wage standards.

But advocates say the looming revamp of the Armory, due to open in 2018, as well as the de Blasio administration's plan to rezone two miles of Jerome Avenue to encourage more housing development, has enticed some landlords to try to cash in by getting rid of tenants paying lower rents in hopes of attracting higher-paying renters.

The de Blasio administration, which says the rezoning along Jerome and elsewhere around the city is necessary to accommodate a growing population, ease the housing crisis and create more vibrant neighborhoods and says the planning process will take into account local concerns. It is also funding new anti-harassment protections for tenants.

But it's unclear those efforts can keep up with private-market forces which, as a City Limits investigation reported earlier this year, often play out in a housing court poorly suited to dealing with them.

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City Limits' coverage of housing policy is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
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