Members of the Ridgewood Tenants Union (RTU) chanted “no, no to luxury colonization — yes, yes to homes for all” in front of Food Bazaar Supermarket during their rally against a planned new luxury apartment tower on Monday.
The RTU demanded that city officials stop Avery Hall Investments’ (AHI) plan to build a 24-story luxury apartment building at 1590 Gates Ave., right on top of where the community supermarket, Food Bazaar Supermarket, is currently located.
“We are also here to demand that our politicians, like Council member Antonio Reynoso, fight harder to protect us from displacement and gentrification,” RTU member Tousif Ahsan said through a megaphone.
According to a rep from the office of Councilman Reynoso, AHI is going ahead with the as-of-right luxury project. AHI didn’t respond to a request for comment before press time.
RTU spoke at length about the correlation between the construction of luxury apartment buildings and the city’s increased homelessness rates.
They were joined by Assemblyman Mike Miller, who gave a short speech against the proposed new building at the rally, as well as representatives of Assemblymen Brian Barnwell, Andrew Hevesi and Senator Michael Gianaris.
“The city should not allow for Avery Hall to be built,” Miller said. “Food Bazaar has been a staple in this community for a long time. My constituents need to buy affordable groceries for their families; they don’t need luxury apartments.”
Miller said that he “refused to see these high-rise apartments be built in a working-class neighborhood where people struggle to make ends meet.”
He also mentioned Mayor Bill de Blasio’s promise of “ending a tale of two cities,” saying that the mayor has instead “made it worse.” Miller added that he will continue to fight for the Home Stability Support bill that he and Hevesi have supported to be placed into law.
RTU’s lead organizer, Raquel Namuche, then took to the megaphone and gave a passionate statement in response to the Oct. 7 Community Board 5 meeting in which Glendale residents gave angry public statements against the new homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue.
Among them was Councilman Robert Holden, who has been against the facility since it was announced.
“We need politicians to take action to end homelessness immediately — instead, our Councilman Robert Holden incites bigotry and stereotypes and vilifies our homeless neighbors,” Namuche said. “And that is not right. It’s downright criminal.”
Namuche then spoke on behalf of all the members of the RTU, and are calling for the Committee on Standards and Ethics to investigate Holden. They also want the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections at the City Council to remove Holden off his role as chairperson of the Technology Committee, as well as his membership of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities and Addiction and the Committee on Criminal Justice.
“All of these committees have a role in looking at ways to serve our homeless neighbors, and it is dangerous for someone who plays on stereotypes to create fear of the homeless to serve on them,” Namuche said.
Namuche said that even asking for a disciplinary action is “nice,” and that he should just “resign immediately.”
“We have to act from a place of compassion, we have to act from a place of understanding that the homelessness crisis is not created by homeless people, it is created by luxury developers,” she said. “They’re uprooting us from our homes, and we won’t take it any longer. So today, we are taking a stand against Trumpian bigots like Robert Holden. He does not represent us, and he should not be allowed at City Council at all.”
The RTU then took to Twitter to announce that they formerly wrote a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, urging him and New York City Council to begin a disciplinary action for Holden.
QNS reached out to Holden, who declined to comment on the rally and RTU’s statements.
At the rally, 72-year-old Emilio Gavino shared his own housing issues with the help of Namuche’s translation.
Gavino, a cancer patient, is currently living with his sister, and although he’s been applying for senior housing for more than six months, he hasn’t received any assistance.
“That is just downright criminal,” Namuche said, after thanking Gavino for speaking.
Namuche then addressed Avery Hall directly.
“If you’re watching, if you’re listening, Ridgewood does not want you. You’re a luxury colonizer, and on Indigenous People’s Day, we’re saying no to luxury colonization, no to luxury developers.”