Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MJB Victory Against Dawnay, Day Group

Here is the press release from Movement for Justice in El Barrio announcing final confirmation that Dawnay, Day Group is leaving East Harlem as well as the victory they've just won against them in court. Below that is an article en español from yesterday's El Diario...

For Immediate Release
Contact Juan Haro, (212) 561-0555

Most Powerful Landlord in East Harlem, Multi-National Dawnay, Day Group, Comes Crashing Down

October 14, 2009—In a battle of David and Goliath proportions, tenants and members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio fought back against the attempts of the multi-billion dollar London-based corporation Dawnay, Day Group to push low-income families from their homes.

Thousands of East Harlem tenants have just been notified that the 47 buildings they reside in have been seized, due to Dawnay, Day’s failure to pay its massive outstanding debts, and are now under receivership, completing the demise of this multi-national company, a powerful threat to the community of El Barrio.

The multinational corporation that had scooped up 47 buildings in East Harlem, controlling one of the largest private property collections in Manhattan and by far the largest in East Harlem, is going down. Worldwide, Dawnay, Day has fallen victim to its own greed and is selling off its properties to cover its debt.

The East Harlem community has outlasted the giant through a multi-pronged strategy of resistance. This news comes close on the heels of a ground breaking legal victory in a case filed by Movement for Justice in El Barrio concerning thousands of dollars in false charges that were tormenting low-income tenants. Through this case, Movement for Justice in El Barrio partnered with Manhattan Legal Services and NEDAP to employ the innovative use of consumer protection laws for the first time in the housing arena with great success. Members of Movement for Justice in El Barrio just signed a settlement that will benefit thousands of tenants by putting an end to the practice of charging tenants thousands of dollars in false and illegal charges, instituting a new 3% cap on late fees for all tenants, and the plaintiffs receiving monetary damages, among other victories.

When Dawnay, Day became the most powerful landlord in East Harlem with their immense purchase, they announced in an interview with the Times of London their plan to take advantage of lax tenant protection laws in NYC to raise rents by "tenfold", a massive rent hike that would only be possible by evicting the current low-income and immigrant families from their homes. Again, they made their intentions explicit when they launched their “Buy-back Program” and began pushing tenants to abandon their apartments for a lump sum of $10,000. They coupled what amounts to measly and misleading offers in today’s NYC rental market with severe harassment in the form of dangerous negligence to the physical conditions of the buildings and apartments and illegal efforts to collect fictitious debts. Movement for Justice in El Barrio fought back against their efforts by:

- Filing a groundbreaking legal suit and recently winning a major victory that challenged Dawnay, Day Group, for charging thousands of dollars in false fees to its tenants.

- Launching the “International Campaign in Defense of El Barrio” and traveling to London to organize action to take them on at their headquarters.

- Fighting back building by building to demand decent living conditions and halt illegal evictions and maintaining a sustained media campaign exposing Dawnay, Day’s harassment.

Movement for Justice in El Barrio will continue the struggle for dignity and against displacement with more strength and energy than ever before.

Dawnay Day tenants will be available to conduct media interviews.

To arrange interviews call Movement for Justice in El Barrio at 212-561-0555.


Casero negligente pierde viviendas
El Diario NY

NUEVA YORK — Después de más de dos años de luchar contra el desalojo de sus viviendas contra la corporación londinense Dawnay, Day Group, dueña de 47 edificios en El Barrio los inquilinos recibieron recientemente una noticia que los alegró: por problemas financieros, este grupo dejó de pagar su hipoteca y los inmuebles han quedado bajo el control de la Corte Suprema de Nueva York.

Harvey Fishbein, designado por la Corte como Administrador legal de los edificios, informó a los inquilinos el 29 de septiembre pasado que Dawnay, Day Group no ha estado pagando su hipoteca, y los prestamistas—el Banco de Nueva York Mellon Trust y National Association— han comenzado un procedimiento legal para ejecutar la hipoteca. “He sido designado por la Corte no sólo para colectar el alquiler, sino también para ciertas responsabilidades de mantenimiento”, comunicó Fishbein.

De acuerdo con Juan Haro, del Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, la noticia fue recibida con alegría por los inquilinos de Dawnay, Day Group, porque desde que esta corporación tomó posesión de los inmuebles, “empezó un plan bien agresivo para desalojar a los inquilinos, cobrándoles cargos falsos”.

Esta lucha, según Haro, llegó a los inquilinos a unirse, protestar e incluso demandar al casero en corte.

La noticia de la salida de El Barrio de Dawnay, Day Group se produce pocos días después de que los inquilinos ganaran una demanda contra el grupo por miles de dólares en cargos falsos a los inquilinos. Fue presentada por el Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio, en asociación con los Servicios Jurídicos de Manhattan, NEDAP, pero no bajo las leyes de Vivienda, sino bajo las leyes de Protección al Consumidor.

Los inquilinos denunciaron cargos en el alquiler por gastos en mantenimiento responsabilidad del casero. “Los inquilinos recibieron compensación monetaria al ganar la demanda y, entre otros beneficios, se estableció un tope de 3% de cargos por pagos atrasados en el alquiler”, dijo Haro.

Paula Serrano, quien reside con sus dos hijos pequeños en el 328 East de la calle 106, dijo que desde que Dawnay, Day Group tomó el edificio, empezó a recibir cargos falsos de $300 y $400 por supuestas reparaciones, y su balance llegó a $2,000. “Estoy muy contenta de que se haya ido Dawnay, Day Group, porque el plan de ellos era sacarnos de aquí”, dijo.

Los inquilinos esperan que los nuevos dueños se ajusten a la ley.

Llamadas a Dawnay, Day Group no fueron contestadas al cierre.

Read More!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homeland Hip Hop II

We're breaking down borders from Native California to Detroit,
from Iraq to Brooklyn... to Palestine.

If you are in or around NYC -or at least will be next week!- make sure to come out on Wednesday (October 21st) and Thursday (October 22nd) for two powerful events --> see full details below... but first, a Multiple Choice Question:

The first ever Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine is back and gearing up to:

a) produce a documentary about the delegation

b) release a hip hop track that was recorded during the music workshops in Palestine

c) publish the next issue of SNAG Magazine in Arabic, English, and Spanish... with the writing and photos from the indigenous and Palestinian youth this summer

d) create a section on thinkpalestineact.org focused completely on education and organizing tools for folks working on Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) campaigns within indigenous communities in North America.

e) develop and organize multimedia delegation reportbacks in the different communities, schools, and organizations that the delegates come from.

What's the answer? These kids are on the grind -> it's ALL OF THE ABOVE! Now here are those two events (in reverse chronological order):

if you made it to the first concert than you already know... and if you didn't, than make sure to get yourself to the sequel!

Thursday, Oct 22
doors at 8pm, show at 9pm
advance tickets $12, $15 at the door
@ Public Assembly (70 N. 6th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn)


Invincible --> Detroit's finest... if you need convincing, check out those hot music videos at the Emergence Travel Agency.

Audiopharmacy - This is the band of one of the indigenous delegates to Palestine, Ras K'dee of SNAG Magazine.

The Narcicyst - PLEASE tell me you've seen the P.H.A.T.W.A. music video already.

PEP Youth Performers - These Brooklyn kids go hard for Palestine... it'll warm your heart :-)

Hosted by Remi Kanazi
...and DJ Oja on the 1's & 2's

Purchase tickets: publicassemblynyc.com

Proceeds from this show will go to support the hip hop group DAM in Palestine, the Palestine Education Project's work with youth in Brooklyn, and our indigenous partners throughout the U.S.

#2 Indigenous Delegation to Palestine: NYC Reportback

Wed, Oct 21

6:30pm- Reception with light food & drink
7:00pm- Reportback- live music, photos, and stories shared by Ras K'dee,
SNAG Magazine delegate visiting from San Francisco

@ the American Indian Community House (AICH)
11 Broadway in the Financial District (Take the 4,5 trains to Bowling Green). AICH is on the 2nd Floor.

Read More!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

From El Barrio to Durban

Eyewitness video from the recent attacks on the Kennedy Road Settlement and Abahlali baseMjondolo

UPDATE October 13 '09: Here's Picture the Homeless' reportback from Friday's consulate protest here in NYC.

UPDATE October 8 '09: Protest at the South African Consulate in NYC this Friday (tomorrow) from Noon to 1:30p at 333 E 38th St btwn 1st & 2nd Aves --> organized by Picture the Homeless, the Poverty Initiative, and Domestic Workers United.

UPDATE October 6 '09: Press Statement by the Kennedy Road Development Committee, Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Poor People’s Alliance

Before we get to Movement for Justice in El Barrio's message to Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) in Durban, please take these actions in support of their South African shack dwellers' movement at this critical moment:

1) Circulate eyewitness video coverage of the attack on the shack dwellers, which can be found at http://www.abahlali.org
2) Sign the petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/petition/274924944
3) Alert any press connections and send them to http://www.abahlali.org
4) Send emergency resources (even as little as $10):

Tax-exempt donations can be made by check. Please make checks payable to "South Africa Development Fund" which has promised to forward 100% to AbM and mark them for Abahlali baseMjondolo and mail to:

South Africa Development Fund
555 Amory Street
Boston, MA 02130


transfer directly to Abahlali baseMjondolo Bank account with the following details:

Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement
Bank: First National Bank
Acc no: 62218884577
Branch: Umgeni Junction
Branch Code: 00200913
Swift Code: firnzajj759

Please mark payments for Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Thank you! Now here's the word from Movimiento...

Statement of Support to the Shack Dwellers Movement of South Africa
From Movement for Justice in El Barrio in New York City

To our sisters and brothers in Abahlali baseMjondolo [AbM] (Shack Dwellers Movement), the Kennedy Road Settlement in Durban, South Africa:

Greetings in solidarity on behalf of Movement for Justice in El Barrio. We want you to know that we, the simple and humble people of East Harlem, New York, are filled with rage for everything that is happening to you, our sisters and brothers, in your country of South Africa. It pains us to hear that 3 members of your community have been pronounced dead and there may be more, many are missing, and even more are seriously injured. This repression that began on the evening of Saturday September 26th, and has yet to cease, in the form of invasion and violent raids in your community are a blatant attack on democracy and the movement for the power of poor people.

It is obvious that not only are the local police behind what is happening in the Kennedy Road shack settlement, but local politicians, that are members of the state party, the ANC, as well. We know that when the Sydenham police were called, they did not respond, and that police dressed in plain clothes that were present during the attacks did nothing to stop the destruction. In addition, we know that of the arrests that have been made so far, none of the people who are part of the militia that launched this completely unprovoked attack on Saturday evening have been arrested, and that most of the Kennedy Road Democratic Committee (KRDC) is behind bars at the Sydenham Police station (including those that were not even present during the attacks because they were attending a public event nearby!).

It is obvious that the police knew about these attacks and that they support this militia that clearly wants to destroy everything the Kennedy Road shack settlement has created and stands for. And, of course, the police can do this because they know they can get away with it as they have the support of powerful local politicians who want to destroy the Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers Movement) and KRDC because they are in the way of their political and economic control.

As we stated to you when you visited us, we stand with you sisters and brothers because we too are fighting the same system that uses vicious and aggressive strategies of displacement to remove us from our homes, only we are in different places. But no matter, we know that in all parts of the world the capitalist system and its political class from above impose these practices against the simple & humble people.

Which is why we are sharing these words from across the oceans and continents to let you know, from here in East Harlem, New York, that we are going to support you and we will do everything necessary so that this ends in favor of the South African community, so that one day in the future we all will be able to achieve our liberation.

Sisters and brothers you are not alone, we are with you and unite in one cry of dignified rebellion and rage.

Long live the dignified struggle of the Abahlali baseMjondolo!

Movement for Justice in El Barrio

Introduction to Abahlali baseMjondolo:

The Abahlali baseMjondolo (Shack Dwellers Movement) began in Durban, South Africa, in early 2005. Although it is overwhelmingly located in and around the large port city of Durban it is, in terms of the numbers of people mobilized, the largest organization of the militant poor in post-apartheid South Africa. Its originary event was a road blockade organized from the Kennedy Road settlement in protest at the sale, to a local industrialist, of a piece of nearby land long promised by the local municipal councilor to shack dwellers for housing.

The movement that began with the Kennedy Road blockade grew quickly and now includes tens of thousands of people from more than 30 settlements. In the last year and a half the movement has suffered more than a hundred arrests, regular police assault and ongoing death threats and other forms of intimidation from local party goons. It has developed a sustained voice for shack dwellers in subaltern and elite publics and occupied and marched on the offices of local councilors, police stations, municipal offices, newspaper offices and the City Hall in actions that have put thousands of people on the streets. The movement also organized a highly contentious but very successful boycott of the March 2006 local government elections under the slogan ‘No Land, No House, No Vote’. Amongst other victories the Abahlali have democratized the governance of many settlements, stopped evictions in a number of settlements, won access to schools, stopped the industrial development of the land promised to Kennedy Road, forced numerous government officials, offices and projects to ‘come down to the people’ and mounted vigorous challenges to the uncritical assumption of a right to lead the local struggles of the poor in the name of a privileged access to the 'global' (i.e. Northern donors, academics and NGOs) that remains typical of most of the NGO based left.

The movement’s key demand is for ‘Land & Housing in the City’ but it has also successfully politicized and fought for an end to forced removals and for access to education and the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, health care and refuse removal as well as bottom up popular democracy.

The AbM office is in a community center on Kennedy Road, located in the Kennedy Road informal settlement, and is also home of the AbM meeting hall and a childcare center. The office is the location of most AbM General Meetings as well as the meeting place for the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC). The KRDC is just one of many autonomous political organizations that function within each settlement; these organizations, often called Development Committees, constitute AbM.

Background information on the attack

1. On Saturday night members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee were subject to a surprise attack by a group of about 40 armed men chanting anti Mpondo slogans. The police failed to intervene. People were killed. Later on that night all key AbM leaders were subject to attack. Everyone's houses (and businesses in two cases where people had shops) were destroyed. This mob (now known as 'the Zulu mob' in the settlement) has direct connections to the local ANC who had promised, two weeks ago, to turn the AbM office into an ANC office.

2. The police arrived in the morning and arrested 8 people all (as far as we know - we'll only be sure who has been arrested when they appear in court this morning) are members of the KRDC – the same people who were attacked. Among the arrested are people who were performing a dance at a public event elsewhere in the city on Saturday night. Attacks and threats continued unimpeded in the presence of the police. Calls for help were ignored.

3. Thousands have fled the settlement and some individuals, all key AbM activists, are in hiding as they have been told that they will be killed. Some Xhosa and Pondo people organized themselves against 'the Zulu mob' - this was independent of AbM or the KRDC, which are multi-ethnic organizations. There may well have been counter violence from this quarter. If so it may well be accurate to characterize it as defensive.

4. On Monday morning a huge police presence descended on the settlement as the local ANC councilor and the provincial MEC for Safety and Security arrived (proving that it is easy to get the police there when the state wants them there). They spoke in the hall and offered a clear endorsement of the fact that AbM has been driven out of the settlement. Some of their statements have been recorded. They began, bizarrely, to claim that the KRDC had launched the attacks - this is a total fabrication that they will not be able to sustain, as there were many witnesses on the scene - including some who are independent of local politics. They have also denied the ethnic character of the first attack.

5. After the politicians left so did the police. The settlement was left in the hands of groups of armed men - many not know to the residents. They trashed the AbM office and banned, on the pain of death, all AbM activists and supporters as well as media from entering the settlement.

Read More!