Brooklyn residents hold funeral procession protest ahead of Rent Guidelines Board hearing

The Rent Guidelines Board decides whether rates on rent-stabilized apartments should go up.

Dozens of people, some dressed in black, held a funeral procession through the streets of Brooklyn Wednesday, but they weren’t mourning a person.

The procession was organized as a protest against what participants view as the death of affordable housing in the city.

Brooklyn residents were joined by housing advocates and other community groups as they rallied for more affordable rents, marching from Brooklyn Borough Hall to Founders Hall at Saint Francis College.

The protest, organized by the Rent Justice Coalition, preceded a public hearing at the college that was held by the Rent Guidelines Board, as its members prepare to hand down a decision on rates for rent-stabilized apartments.

While protesters are calling for a rent freeze, landlords are asking the board for a rent hike.

In 2017, the Rent Guidelines Board voted to cap rent increases on one-year leases at 1.25 percent and at 2 percent for two-year leases.

Rent-stabilized tenants who testified at the hearing on Wednesday spoke of harassment and intimidation from landlords as a tactic to get them to leave, making way for tenants who can pay higher rent.

“It is sad to see how quietly affordable housing is dying in New York City, which causes families and communities to disintegrate,” said Brooklyn resident Gladys Puglla. “The Rent Guidelines Board should again freeze rents so that tenants can continue to breathe.”

Puglla said there are only two rent-stabilized apartments left in her entire building.

“I will not leave. I will stay and fight until the end,” she added.

According to the Rent Justice Coalition, more than 30 percent of tenants in rent-stabilized apartments are paying 50 percent or more of their income toward rent.

“In Crown Heights, most people can’t afford a rent increase, especially senior citizens,” Peter Rodriguez, a member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union, said. “Landlords can afford a rent freeze more than we can afford another increase.”

The hearing was one of several being held around the city before the Rent Guidelines Board delivers its decision. The board will host two more public hearings, both in Manhattan, before the vote on June 26.

Lauren Cook