An 11-car caravan attempted to give luxury developer Meir Babaev, president of AB Capstone, a wake-up call on the morning of Monday, Sept. 14.
Members of the Ridgewood Tenants Union (RTU) organized the protest at 5:30 a.m. outside of what they said was Babaev’s home in Jamaica Estates. The group has been protesting the planned development of an “as-of-right” 17-story, mixed-use tower — with 138 apartments as well as retail and commercial space — to be located at 54-27 Myrtle Ave., 336 and 350 St. Nicholas Ave. in Ridgewood for some time now.
The demonstration woke up other residents of the neighborhood, whom RTU protesters said yelled at them from the door, “He doesn’t live here!”
Members of RTU said they were met with hostility from residents of the upper-middle-class neighborhood. They said one neighbor shouted in front of a protester’s face, saying they shouldn’t “be allowed to destroy his peace and his neighborhood.”
“Why should he and his neighbors get rest when Meir Babaev is causing our community to lose our sleep and our homes over the displacement his project will bring?” said Bonnie Gil, a leader with the RTU.
About 20 minutes into their demonstration, in which they drove around the block four times creating a loud noise disturbance, the protesters left when the NYPD arrived to the scene.
Last month, RTU demanded AB Capstone take down the “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” signs that were hung up on the developments’ scaffolding.
“Black people and people of color are not only the most likely targets of police brutality, but they are also the most likely to be displaced and evicted from their homes,” RTU stated. “Signs in support of the police placed at the construction site make our Black neighbors and neighbors of color feel unsafe and indicate that AB Capstone has no concern for the violent displacement their luxury tower can trigger and absolutely no concern for the racist symbolism behind the signs.”
AB Captsone did not respond to QNS’ request for comment.
The tower, set to become Ridgewood’s tallest building, was introduced in 2015 but has been stalled since 2019.
In an interview with The Stoler Report, Babaev said they are looking to lease the ground floor to a national chain (30,000 square feet of the tower’s retail space) and more retail or office space in the remaining four floors (about 67,000 square feet of the remaining retail space).
RTU argues the tower will “exacerbate gentrification” and worsen an already dire situation for Ridgewood’s working-class residents who were rent-burdened before the pandemic and have been unable to pay rent during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the tenant group said the developers’ negligence of the property present quality-of-life issues for the surrounding community.
“Since announcing their plans in 2015, AB Capstone has received numerous complaints from commercial tenants on the lots they purchased for work without permits, unsafe scaffolding and water leaks as a result of demolition work at their construction site,” RTU stated. “The lack of maintenance at the site creates piles of garbage that accumulate on a daily basis and has created an eyesore in the neighborhood. Further, the scaffolding and the wooden planks surrounding the site have created unsafe conditions for pedestrians who are forced to walk in the streets next to moving cars in a high traffic area to get to their destinations.”