Knickerbocker Village Update: Rent Strike Proposed

Knickerbocker Village residents held a rally on Cherry Street yesterday.

Here’s the latest on the situation at Knickerbocker Village, the 1590-unit apartment complex on Monroe Street that remains mostly without power and heat this morning.   Yesterday, exasperated residents gathered on the basketball courts across from the historic affordable housing buildings to begin laying the groundwork for a potential rent strike and/or class action lawsuit (more on that in a moment).

  • Building management reported last night that two generators are in the process of being connected to Knickerbocker Village’s “internal grid,” a slow process which is being conducted with “safety (being) the primary concern.”  A third generator is expected to be delivered today.  According to management, power was restored to around 250 apartments last night. The plan was to light “quadrants” of the buildings in phases.
  • In the same update, managers indicated the boilers are being taken apart and rebuilt.  It’s also a very slow process, and could take some time.  As we reported Friday, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development offered to have its contractor replace the boilers.  It’s unclear whether Knickerbocker Village is still entertaining the offer.
  • Meanwhile efforts to provide food and other assistance to residents have been stepped up. Last night,  the Red Cross served around 1600 meals at the Hamilton Madison House warming center at 50 Madison Street.   State Sen. Daniel Squadron says he arranged for a 24-hour heated FEMA comfort tent, now set up on a playground on Cherry Street.  It’s supposed to be operational today. Knickerbocker Village management reports it knocked on most doors last night, checking on residents.  They’re also getting ready to provide space heaters (presumably to those apartments that have regained electrical power).
  • Now back to yesterday’s rally.  A pretty big crowd assembled at noon to hear tenant organizers criticize what they see as management’s failure to communicate with residents and to devote sufficient resources to restoring power and heat.  Keisha Hogans, who did most of the talking at the rally, said tenants want Knickerbocker Village to make rent concessions.  Some in the crowd called for a rent strike but Hogans says it’s important that tenants unite, consult attorneys and “do everything legally” in housing court.  Notably, leaders of the tenant association distanced themselves from the rally, although some of them observed the gathering from the periphery of the playground.
  • State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office has announced there will be a community meeting Tuesday night to talk about the Knickerbocker Village situation.

See below for more photos shot this weekend on Cherry Street:

Zach Bommer, an aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, addresses people attending yesterday’s rally.

National Guard troops unload supplies on Cherry Street.

Generators are in place at Knickerbocker Village this morning. Photo by Florence Eng.

Workers remove debris from the basement of Knickerbocker Village. Photo by Florence Eng.