Housing activists hold protest outside Brooklyn office of city marshall

Housing activists rallied in Downtown Brooklyn and Boerum Hill on Sept. 1 against evictions. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Housing activists rallied outside a city marshal’s office in Boerum Hill Tuesday morning, protesting against one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s semi-public officers that enforce court eviction orders.

“They charge a fee for each eviction so they’re literally profiting off of evictions and it’s a system that incentives them to evict as many people as possible,” said Gustavo Gordillo, an organizer with the housing advocacy group New York Communities for Change. 

The demonstration began as dozens of protesters gathered outside Downtown Brooklyn’s housing court, before marching to the offices of city marshal Howard Schain on Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Bond streets at around 11 am.

Schain is one of 83 marshals the mayor appoints for five-year terms as independent contractors to enforce court orders like evictions, property seizures, and money judgments. The officers are not employed by the city or the courts, but earn their income from fees by parties in court cases — and Schain earned almost $850,000 in 2015, the most recent year available from public records.

The city suspended the well-paid agent back in 2000 and slapped him with a $50,000 fine on dozens of charges — including falsifying records, losing his badge, and failing to notice a child in the backseat of a car he was towing, the New York Post reported.

Schain, via a staffer answering his office’s phone, declined to comment for this story.

The state court’s ongoing month-to-month eviction moratorium due to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire on Oct. 1, and state judges have said that they will no longer extend the pause on the proceedings — leaving the matter up to Albany legislators, Curbed reported.

Protesters demand the state cancel rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Downtown Brooklyn on Sept. 1. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

One Crown Heights City Council candidate said marshals like Schain were gearing up to resume evictions in 30 days, something which he experienced first-hand when the armed officers forced him from his public housing dwelling after his mother died and he lost his job in 2013.

“That experience of the marshals waiting at your door with several armed men and employees telling you to gather what you can while the rest of them are literally destroying your home to throw it in boxes to be shipped to an unknown warehouse in Red Hook,” said Jamell Henderson, who is running for the seat in the 41st Council District in 2021.

The would-be politico called on government leaders to extend the eviction moratorium for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that many workers have lost income due to government-ordered shutdowns. 

“We demand state leadership and city leadership to stop playing games with tenants’ lives and expand this moratorium until the pandemic is over,” Henderson said.

Henderson addresses the crowd outside city marshal Howard Schain’s Atlantic Avenue office on Sept. 1. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

One Flatbush tenant said she had recently lost her job, and her three-year-old son died of a heart attack — but despite her troubles, her superintendent has been harassing her for not paying rent.

“We don’t have work, we don’t have jobs, but we still are getting bills for gas and electricity and the rent and we can’t pay,” said Sista Leon in Spanish via an interpreter. “The super said whenever he wants he can take the keys away from us.”

Housing activists have been taking their demonstrations to the front doors of people and agencies involved in the housing crisis, including Downtown Brooklyn offices of law firms that work on evictions on at the beginning of August, and with pitchforks outside homes of billionaires in the Hamptons calling on the well-heeled to pay more taxes in late July, Patch reported.

This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.