Tenant power vs. Brooklyn slumlord

BY: Brooklyn Club| June 9, 2022
Tenant power vs. Brooklyn slumlord


On April 2nd, Brooklyn resident Khadija Haynes passed out while inside her basement apartment due to carbon monoxide poisoning, caused by her landlord, Olive Gibbs.

After some discussion Haynes and the Brooklyn CPUSA club and YCL began organizing an action to hold her landlord accountable. After the People’s World published an article about the CO poisoning, explaining it in detail and connecting it to the broader issues, Haynes attended a meeting with members of the CPUSA, Brooklyn Eviction Defense, Crown Heights Tenant Union, Flatbush Tenant Coalition, and Not One More Block to begin planning a response. Having set a date for an action, they created fliers to distribute to her former neighbors on the block, informing them of what had taken place and inviting them to participate in the action.

On Tuesday, June 7, 40–50 people gathered at Amersfort Park at 5 p.m. and marched around the corner to Haynes’ former apartment where they held a public speaking program. As community members stopped on the sidewalk and in their doorways to see what was happening, the group handed out copies of the People’s World article.

“My heart was racing, I didn’t know why,” Haynes described the incident to those gathered. After trying to take a shower, she passed out. “I managed to get up, my leg completely shaking and everything. I crawled out of the basement with this scar right here,” she said pointing to the side of her head, “and fell down the steps. The EMS met me and they said, ‘You’re lucky to be alive. . . . You have too much carbon monoxide in your lungs.” After that, Haynes spent the entire day in the hospital.

It wasn’t the only time Gibbs had demonstrated such blatant disregard for the lives of her tenants. Haynes described an incident in which Gibbs tried to make her pay for a fixed boiler, and when she refused, the landlord went into Haynes’ apartment looking for her money. And besides the rats, mice, and cockroaches crawling around the basement​​, Gibbs kept her dirty cat litter box outside Haynes’ kitchen.

“This is not only a failure of Olive, this is a failure of community!” Haynes declared, pointing out that Gibbs’ treatment of her former tenants, Keisha and Antonio, had been just the same. “No tenant should have to be abused! . . . From the first instance, Olive and her daughter should have been run out this neighborhood!”

“So today we have to call for community . . . to protect our people, so they don’t have to be subjected to living in deplorable conditions.”

The newly formed coalition plans to meet again later this month to discuss next steps.

Image: Brooklyn Club, CPUSA.


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