Thursday, January 24, 2008

The 475 Kent Catastrophe

The Gowanus Lounge has provided excellent coverage of the suffering the residents of 475 Kent Avenue in South Williamsburg have had to endure since they were forcibly evacuated from their homes by City officials earlier this week because of a whole host of building violations at 475 which were potentially jeopardizing their lives.

Since the tenants of 475 Kent were ordered from their homes this past Sunday on a particularly cold night, The Gowanus Lounge has reported the dramatic travails from the point of view of the affected tenants, including a filmmaker named Phillip Anderson who hid out in his apartment with his dog while cops went down the building's hallways pounding on its doors to make sure the residents complied.

In part, GL's insights can be attributed to the proactive stand the residents of 475 Kent have taken in bringing the case of their mistreatment to the public. They have had a website going all week to share information with the media and local elected officials, as well as with one another. The site's message board has helped coordinate the roughly 150 residents of 475 Kent, who as of this evening's latest news will all likely have to empty their apartments this weekend in a mass move without any inkling of when, if ever, they will be allowed to return.

Though Councilman David Yassky, who represent the districts in which 475 Kent stands, has made public statements in support of the displaced tenants, a number of the building's residents appear unsatisfied with the response of their local elected officials. GL quotes one resident's post on the 475 Kent website who argues:

"we need to start a coordinated effort to pressure our electeds to take this issue on. i am very encouraged by councilman yassky's statement from last night. now we need to get assemblyman lentol and our state senator, marty connor, who is facing a well financed primary fight, involved as well. one side note: connor is being challenged by a man named dan squadron. he's young, but he's pretty sharp. if he decides to make an issue out of this, which is a very smart thing for him to do, connor will absolutely have to address it as well."

As residents consult with lawyers to weigh their legal options, it will be interesting to see what will be the political ramifications, if any, of 475 Kent's mistreatment. Will Daniel Squadron try to assail State Senator Martin Connor's dedication to his constituents by accusing Connor of indifference to 475's struggle?

The Optimist hopes that our elected officials will be above such divisive political posturing and instead use their clout to ensure the residents of 475 can get back into their homes as soon as it is safely possible for them to do so.

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