A quick update on our campaign to empower our neighbors at Red Oak to fight back against inhumane living conditions imposed upon them from their out-of-state landlord:
We’re making progress! It’s slower progress than our neighbors deserve and Red Oak is still dragging their feet, but it’s clear that Ginter Park LLC responds to collective people power in ways that they don’t feel obligated to respond to individual complaints and maintenance requests. We put out a press release three weeks ago, and we are certain that owner-profiteer Elliot Bialostozy is feeling the increased pressure from tenants, the community, and media. Good. He may have a little more pressure, as a treat.
We are seeing some small gains in response to the pressure of people power: maintenance has replaced mailboxes and doors, city inspectors have increased activity, and we’ve also received a verbal commitment from Red Oak to open their office on certain specific days after tenant complaints of intentional inaccessibility.
Last month, city inspectors visited the apartments after repeated pressure from tenants and they issued three code violations including structural issues, at one of the many buildings where issues persist. Two weeks ago, those specific violations were supposedly addressed to be in compliance with the City, though it isn’t clear what repairs were actually done. According to a resident we spoke with after the news article the city inspectors only requested that repairs be made to the exterior of the building. A tenant shared with us that she recently saw the owner giving instructions to maintenance workers on what he thought needed to be fixed. The building’s broken mailboxes have not been addressed to date as they are still broken. According to tenants, neither the owner nor the city inspectors actually went into any apartments to assess or address living conditions.
Much like Elliot Bialostozy’s maintenance instructions and the city inspectors’ inspections the media coverage so far has been mostly concerned with the face rather than the heart of the matter. Raising awareness about surface-level concerns is a great first step but the work is far from over. The one building in question still has pest control issues, irrational and unaccountable water usage billing, broken mailboxes, and various smaller neglected maintenance issues that don’t rise to the level of city code violations. There are dozens of buildings owned by this company and each of them still have issues interfering with the health, safety, and dignity of our neighbors, the tenants of Red Oak.
We spoke to a disabled, elderly Red Oak tenant whose kitchen hood vent has been broken for several months. This prevents him from cooking meals without worrying about smoke and vapors exacerbating his COPD, and potentially triggering a hospital visit where COVID still rages on.
Living conditions are still unacceptable, and we intend to continue building power among the people to oppose and overcome these barriers to a dignified life. We draw lessons from practice and successful tenant rights campaigns and movements across the country including RTU, Brooklyn Eviction Defense, and the Autonomous Tenants Union Network.
We call for you, fellow workers and members of the community, to show your support at the Chamberlayne Tenants Council meetings. Join us as we come together to protect and empower each other. Reach out to us via email or on social media for more information on how to show solidarity with Red Oak Tenants!