WTF!?…Renting while Black In Brooklyn

My son is unproblematic. So, when the landlord of his apartment building, centralized in gentrified Brooklyn, issued him a 10-day Notice to Cure, I was like WTF!? Actually, that was the general response of everyone I told because as I said…he’s unproblematic. As one outraged relative hollered, “It’s dead wrong.”

WTF is a letter of cure anyway? After careful investigation, I learned that it was a legal document landlords use to begin the eviction process for tenants that commit one or more lease violations. My son’s offense is allegedly stealing a Hello Fresh package. Never mind that he too orders his own meal plan from the vendor or that there is no verifiable proof that the delivery did not rightfully belong to him. Yes, there is surveillance footage that recorded him in the lobby picking up a package where ALL deliveries rest willy nilly for any and all to claim. But are we to believe that he doesn’t order online like the majority of the population these days?

What’s most disturbing is that allegedly a police report was filed before addressing it with my son and when the landlord actually called him it was with the vile accusation, “so, you’ve been stealing packages?” WTF!? Of course, my son viewed the footage, agreed that it was him, and emphasized, “Yo. That was my package.”

Of course, I am ready to war, but my mild-mannered man child said it was handled. The landlord shrugged it off with its “water under the bridge,” until this letter of cure appeared stating there was footage that “implicates” him and that his illegal actions create conditions that are “dangerous and detrimental.” WTF!? Even more disturbing is that the claim states “taking or stealing PACKAGES.” Plural.

Now I do not support anyone stealing property. But from the language in the letter to cure, it would seem that my son was running a strong arm operation and bandits in hoods invaded the building threatening the residents on an ongoing basis at his command. In reality, the building has experienced a rash of thefts more than likely even prior to my son moving in. It was an ongoing topic of discussion that the superintendent of the building had with the residents. Efforts allegedly were made to curb the thievery. And apparently, capture the culprit (i.e. my son) because why not? He’s a tall young black man with tattoos who pays his rent, has little to no visitors, goes to the gym, works in his high falutin’ Manhattan office 3 times a week, and lives with his cat, he surely must be responsible.

As the business affairs person at his job stated, the elephant in the room is race. What else could it be? There is no burden of proof to determine that the package was indeed someone else’s. There is no evidence that any of the previous packages were in his possession. And there have been no complaints from the super, landlord, or other residents regarding him being an unfriendly noisy neighbor or that wily tenant who failed to pay rent. And there were no previous verbal or written warnings leading up to the intent to cure.

My son is just a young Black man renting in gentrified Brooklyn.

I’m confident that this is the landlord’s strong-arm tactic to remove my son from the premises. There is a total disregard of the implications this could have on him securing decent and affordable housing in the future and more importantly the defamation of his character that the allegations would have on his reputation.

Ironically, over 30 years ago, I worked for a landlord-tenant law firm that advocates solely for the rights of tenants. It took one phone call to reconnect with long-lasting partners of the firm and an employee who at the time became a dear friend. During the conversation with the attorney, he asked who, if any lawyer, was on the documents. When I told him the name of the law firm, without hesitation he stated the attorney on record and said, “yeah, I have a bunch of cases on my desk now against him.” WTF!?

At the end of the day, my son will not be labeled a thief or victimized by stereotypes. Nor will I allow this matter to go without rebuttal. And it shouldn’t. There is a housing crisis in New York City. The average monthly rent has increased 40 percent, homelessness is at a rapid high, and housing options are at a devastating low. I hope the new mayoral administration has an intent to cure the ails plaguing the city of New York, and a good start would be to confront landlords and property owners who bend rules, exercise discreet yet discriminatory renting practices, and find ways to remove tenants from their gentrified spaces. It is a strategic ploy to uphold their whitewash image or rent out units at a higher rate to the next unsuspecting resident-victim. But I stay ready for war by any means necessary.

It’s not just a battle for my unproblematic son. But the problem exists for Black men and Women, those from marginalized communities: the lower-income, poverty level individuals, the formerly incarcerated or justice impacted, and those who are overwhelmed by debt because the pandemic wasn’t kind. The fight is for the injustice of a city whose apartments give less but cost more and for the stench of gentrification whose underlying message reeks with “if we don’t want you, we will get rid of you” by any means necessary. The rats in New York don’t just scurry on fours, they walk on two and get away with their spoils.

But not on my watch and not with MY son, WTF?