By Sabina Mollot
A group of tenant activists, dressed in black, disrupted a real estate industry luncheon in midtown last Wednesday to mourn the loss of affordable housing in the city. One of the groups organizing the effort was Faith in New York along with Tenants and Neighbors, the latter of whom have a tradition of protesting at events held by the Real Estate Board of New York.
“REBNY has led the charge for pro-gentrification and pro-displacement policies across New York for decades,” Katie Goldstein, executive director of Tenants & Neighbors later said in a written statement. “We are here standing with faith leaders and tenants across New York to mourn the death of affordable housing as we actively organize against REBNY’s policies and practices.”
Incidentally, the keynote speaker at the luncheon was Blackstone Group executive Nadeem Meghji, although he wasn’t speaking when a few protesters snuck into the building and made their way onto a stage. They were escorted out shortly after that when attempting to address guests about the need for more affordable housing in the city. Tenants outside also carried posters resembling gravestones while hearing testimony from clergy members and music from a funeral marching band.
“REBNY’s been instrumental in watering down a lot of housing policies we’ve been fighting for,” Maya Bhardwaj, one of the event’s organizers told T&V, adding that the protesters “left peacefully” once kicked out.
The event was part of a week of similar social justice actions Faith in New York and other activist groups were involved with including a rally for immigrant rights the following evening.
A spokesperson for REBNY didn’t get back to us in time for Town & Village’s print deadline, but later the board’s president John Banks had this to say:
“Our luncheon was a great success where our members gathered to network, hear from leading experts on key industry topics, and celebrate the talent and professional achievement of our Most Promising Commercial Salesperson of the Year Award winner and nominees.”