With the end of the eviction moratorium on Jan. 15 came the beginning of many New Yorkers’ fears about what will happen next in a city already plagued with housing insecurities.
Although eviction is a concern for New Yorkers of all kinds, many Black New Yorkers feel that being Black and facing eviction worries and housing insecurities adds to the experience. Bronx-born activist Fannie Lou Diane is one of those
Black New Yorkers who is familiar with this sentiment. Diane was evicted and homeless prior to the pandemic after she faced eviction in 2019.
“I’m very aware of the statistics in terms of housing inequity; that long history of ‘The Bronx is burning,’ redlining, and how that kind of reflects when you go into the court system,” said Diane, who works with the housing advocacy group,
Neighbors Together. “For me as an educated Black woman who knew her rights and was taken advantage of by a white male landlord and seeing the court system being racist and sexist, I understand they are following the tradition and historical aspects of how they look at Black people and Blackness.”
Diane’s awareness of statistics on housing inequity in her home borough certainly holds true, as the Bronx includes zip codes with the highest eviction filing rates in the city. According to the NYU Furman Center’s data on eviction filings, seven of the top 10 zip codes with the highest eviction filings in the city, are located in the Bronx. The area with the “highest third” eviction rate, the 10453 zip code in the Bronx, had a Black population of 39.8% in 2019.
Not far behind 10453 in filing rates is the 10039 zip code in Manhattan, where the filing rate in 2019 stood at 20.2%. The 10039 zip code roughly covers areas and community districts within Harlem, Inwood and Washington Heights.
Inwood resident Dorca Reynoso has seen the reflection of this data on her neighborhood and the building she has called home for 25 years.
“My community is being destroyed, I’ve seen my neighbors having to move out because of rent increases,” said Reynoso, who considers rent increases simply as evictions. “Some have actually had to leave the building because of 100% increases and another tenant just reached out to me a few days ago because the landlord told her there would be another 50% increase.”
While Reynoso says her sales representative job for Verizon pays her decently, she did face court proceedings for eviction prior to the pandemic. Her son who lives with her, faced personal health issues that progressed during the pandemic and she fell further behind in rent. Luckily, she was able to secure a lawyer with the help of the New York City DSA, and plans on lawyering up again as she expects her landlord, Israel David, to take her to court once more.
“The lawyer that’s assisting me, Ellery Ireland, who has been nothing short of amazing—both ends are a lifesaver,” said Reynoso, who also works with the Met Council on Housing, a tenants’ rights organization.
As housing court is expected to return with the end of the moratorium, advocacy groups that fight for tenants’ rights are gearing up to support Black New Yorkers. Equality for Flatbush is one of these groups and is a Black-led grassroots organization focused on the predominantly Black neighborhoods of Flatbush and East Flatbush in Brooklyn.
“We have and will have what we call landlord accountability,” said the founder and director of Equality for Flatbush, Imani Henry. “The piece of it is exactly that—what do the landlords owe these tenants?”
Henry says that landlord accountability can be considered anything from ensuring cleanliness to making necessary repairs in buildings.
“We’ve had instances where tenants say the pandemic has been used as an excuse to not clean the building,” said Henry. “Here we are with a public health emergency and the trash is just piling up in the front lobby.”
“What the pandemic has shown is the racial and economic violence against low to middle income people of color,” said Henry. “You can be a Harvard graduate and still not be able to afford rent in Bed-Stuy or people won’t let you. Then on top of the pandemic, landlords are sort of holding tenants to the fire, as if we all of a sudden have extra money around when we have lost our jobs.”
Prior to the pandemic and the subsequent eviction moratorium, the zip codes within Flatbush and East Flatbush had some of the highest eviction rates in Brooklyn. The 11226, 11203, and 11210 zip codes had rates of 2.46%, 2.38% and 2.03% respectively.
Dorca Reynoso says it is clear that eviction disproportionately affects Black people and Black women in particular.
“Even if you don’t look at these statistics, all you have to do is go into a train station and what are you going to see—mainly Black people in these train stations unhoused,” said Reynoso. “Many people think we’re in this situation because we want to be; because we’re lazy and we don’t care.”
In 2020, Eviction Lab sampled more than 1,000 counties across the country for a study focused on understanding racial and gender disparities. The study found that while Black people composed almost 20% of adult renters, they accounted for 32.7% of eviction filings in court.