Mid-City Financial Attempts to Hide Numbers on Brookland Manor

Mid-City Financial, the corporation responsible for pushing forth a redevelopment plan that has resulted in mass evictions and displacement of working class Black residents from the Brookland Manor community in Northeast DC, attempted to hide numbers from the DC Zoning Commission to cover up their plan to eliminate over 360 units of affordable family-accessible housing in the midst of a housing crisis in Washington, D.C. If the redevelopment goes through as planned, Mid-City will build over 1,750 units of mostly luxury apartments, reducing overall affordable units from 535 units currently on the property to a mere 373 units, while also restricting 200 out of the 373 units for seniors only, aged 62 and older. In addition to slashing affordability and restricting eligibility of existing residents to live in the affordable units, the redevelopment will eliminate all 4 and 5 bedroom family sized units, and most 3 bedroom units, rendering the property almost completely void of large families.

At the first part of the second stage zoning hearing on February 23, 2017 (second part to take place this Thursday, March 16, 2017), Mid-City Financial executives and attorneys refused to discuss the displacement of existing residents at Brookland Manor. Mid-City has repeatedly claimed that “qualified tenants” and tenants “in good standing” will be eligible to return to the property after the redevelopment. However, they refuse to define the criterion of a “qualified tenant”. Will Merrifield, Brookland Manor's/Brentwood Village Residents Association attorney, analyzes Mid-City’s numbers in his testimony, which you can read here. Watch his cross-examination of Mid-City, which starts at 1 hour 20 minutes and 52 seconds, and you will see how they attempt to hide the numbers by refusing to talk about them: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?PGD=dczoning&iID=4324.

Mid-City is attempting to mislead the DC Zoning Commission, Ward 5 residents and the wider public, and most egregiously, Brookland Manor tenants. In their feeble attempt to “prove” to the DC Zoning Commission that tenants “support” their plan to eliminate family housing, Mid-City submitted this letter to the zoning record. Ironically, the letter details the conditions of a tenant living in a one-bedroom with four children – a family that will be at imminent risk of displacement as a part of the new redevelopment. This is just one of many underhanded ways that Mid-City is attempting to sell a project that they cannot defend – a project that will push working class Black families into the streets and out of the city. While Mid-City’s attorneys discussed shrubs and the color of building bricks, they tried to use procedural loopholes to avoid a discussion on displacement. The good news is that Mid-City is so transparent in their cover up that their plan has backfired and shifted momentum to the side of tenants. We are in a position to win this fight and we need the whole community to stand behind us. It may not be quick, but with sustained community support, we can win the fight against developers that displace in Washington, D.C. Development without displacement is what Brookland Manor tenants demand.

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Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, while tweeting about the need for family units, remains silent on Brookland Manor. It was only after repeated requests by his constituents at the property did he agree to a 30 minute meeting with tenants earlier last month. McDuffie has not reached out to tenants since then regarding the redevelopment, and to-date has in no way committed to help save affordable family housing at Brookland Manor. Last week, reports showed McDuffie introducing a bill to encourage the production of family units through the use of the Housing Production Trust Fund in the future. Not only do we have no idea if the bill will pass or be implemented, but it is also perplexing that McDuffie is willing to introduce bills but seemingly unwilling to take concrete action by standing with Brookland Manor families and signing onto their tenant resolutions. To reiterate, the tenant resolutions oppose Mid-City’s redevelopment plan that would eliminate large bedrooms, and hundreds of units of affordable housing for families in the midst of a city-wide housing crisis. If Councilman McDuffie is serious about protecting families, he should demonstrate it by supporting families in his own backyard at Brookland Manor. Again, McDuffie acknowledges that the city needs family units, so why isn’t he supporting Brookland Manor tenants who are fighting to preserve family units? Tell McDuffie to ACT – Stand with Brookland Manor, and support development WITHOUT displacement.

Here are ways you can help Brookland Manor tenants in the fight against violent displacement:

1. Show up to pack the hearing room this Thursday, March 16, 6:30pm, part two of the second stage of the Brookland Manor zoning hearing (441 4th St. NW Suite 200). RSVP here: http://www.onedconline.org/events.

2. Submit written testimony or sign up to give oral testimony at the zoning hearing this Thursday, March 16 in support of Brookland Manor tenant demands. Email Yasmina Mrabet at ymrabet@onedconline.org if you can support Brookland Manor tenants with a testimony.

3. Call or email Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie at 202-724-8028 or kmcduffie@dccouncil.us and ask him to stand with his constituents at Brookland Manor who are fighting to protect their homes and families. He can support them by opposing Mid-City’s redevelopment plan until or unless it preserves 535 units of affordable housing, at the same bedroom size and subsidy levels currently at the property. McDuffie can also help by signing onto the Brookland Manor tenant resolutions, and opposing any and all redevelopment plans that propose the elimination of family sized units and affordable housing.

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Say No to Displacement!

On February 23, ONE DC members stood with Brookland Manor residents in their struggle against displacement at the hands of Mid-City Financial and the District of Columbia. We were joined, in force, by SURJ-DC, IWW DC, Metro DC DSA, the Black Workers Center Chorus, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Housing Advocacy Team, GW Young Progressives Demanding Action, Black Lives Matter DC, API Resistance, DC Jobs with Justice, Fair Budget Coalition, DC for Reasonable Development, Americans for Transit, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Justice First, DC Right to Housing Initiative, MLOV, the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, UFCW Local 400, and many more partners and supporters. Simply put, our presence was undeniable. Before we could even begin, security mandated we move a paltry distance from where we had set up to the red brick sidewalk behind us (even though much of our comrades were already occupying it). Separated by the empty space of the courtyard nothing was more clear: The power of the people terrifies the capitalist class.

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  Pictured Brookland Manor residents Dorothy Davis & Serita El Amin

 

Black Workers Center Chorus members Luci Murphy, Ma Krstn, and Eric Sheptock opened the rally by leading the group in song. Brookland Manor residents Yvonne Johnson, Dorothy Davis, Neeka Sullivan, Cheryl Brunson, Valarie Scott, and Serita El-Amin shared stories of their vibrant community. They were joined by spoken word poet Nkechi Feaster and activist-organizers Linda Leaks, Eugene Puryear, and Yasmina Mrabet. "Brookland Manor is a place where families become families," Cheryl Brunson explained, "It's our home." Ms. Dorothy Davis reminisced about raising her children in Brookland Manor and how she now has the joy of helping raise her grandchildren there as well. Transforming a space in which one merely dwells into a community that one lives takes decades of support and compassion; a labor of love that goes beyond the pull of self-interest. Ms. Cheryl Brunson humbly recounted how, during a tumultuous time in her life, it was her neighbors in Brookland Manor who served as a vital support system for her and her family.

In addition, residents provided a deft critique of the repressive measures taken by Mid-City Financial in the struggle for Brookland Manor. For those unaware, Mid-City Financial has fenced off the courtyard, blocking an essential element in maintaining their communal life. "We can't even stand outside and watch our kids," Neeka Sullivan explained. Similarly, Mid-City Financial has hired new security guards whose only purpose is to harass residents and produce an endless proliferation of infractions. These tactics, as well as the overall struggle, are dramatically affecting the quality of life of the residents of Brookland Manor. Painfully, Yvonne Johnson observed that in her 20 years there she hasn’t come across this level of depression. Children are weighed down by the possibility that one day they may no longer have a home to come back to.

Despite these realities the residents of Brookland Manor are undeterred. "We haven't seen a gathering like this in a long time," Linda Leaks shouted, passionate yet focused, "We are not going to move and we are going to win." Indeed, the line for those who showed up to support the Brookland Manor residents nearly wrapped around the building and we easily filled the overflow room.

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The line to enter the hearing stretched down the block

Once inside, Mid-City Financial undertook what appeared to be a rather bizarre testimony. Over an hour long, they fixated on minute details concerning the types of shrubbery they wanted to plant and the hue and crispness of their brick selection. Mid-City Financial is just as comfortable prioritizing aesthetics over the concerns of their residents as they are putting their profits before the community. Here, we are reminded of Walter Benjamin's warning about the dangers inherent in introducing "aesthetics into political life" and the displacement it brings (See the epilogue in Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Yet, despite the absurd performance, the tactic was deliberate. The zoning commission proceeding only allows the cross examiner to question the Defendant based on the testimony given. Presumably, if the testimony is filled with vapid details and dead-ends the cross examiner will be barred from initiating a meaningful line of questioning.

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Video Highlights from Say No! to Displacement Rally

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Letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie

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7 Ways to Support the Fight at Brookland Manor

On Thursday, February 23rdBrookland Manor residents and ONE DC members need your support at the 2nd Stage Zoning Commission Hearing. At this hearing, the tenants and their legal team will be arguing for the preservation of affordable housing, including family-sized units, so that no residents will be displaced from their community and face homelessness. Here are 7 simple ways you can support the fight at Brookland Manor!

1. RSVP on Facebook for the Rally & Hearing and invite 10 friends, family, or neighbors to join you. Click here for website RSVP.

Brookland Manor Zoning Hearing poster 

 2. If you are a Ward 5 resident, sign the petition to Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie expressing your support for the Brookland Manor residents. Click here to sign. And don't forget to share with your Ward 5 neighbors! 

3. Join for us for sign-making on Tuesday, February 21 anytime between 5:30 and 7:30 PM at the ONE DC office - 614 S St NW (rear Carriage House). We will have snacks & drinks. We will provide materials, but feel free to bring extras, such as paint, canvas, posterboard, or markers!

4. If you are a member of a community group, civic association, educational, labor, or faith-based institution, or any other kind of organization, please send an email to Yasmina Mrabet - ymrabet@onedconline.org to add your organization's endorsement to the Brookland Manor residents' letter to Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. Click here to view the letter.

5. Submit your testimony to the Zoning Commission. Click here to view instructionson how to submit testimony in support of Brookland Manor. If you plan to testify, please send an email to Yasmina at ymrabet@onedconline.org so we can keep track of the number of people testifying in support.

6. Sign up for phone banking! Send an email to Claire at ccook@onedconline.orgif you can make 25-30 calls anytime between February 10 and February 21 to ONE DC members & supporters inviting them to the rally & hearing. We will provide a list and a script. You can make calls from home or come in any afternoon or evening to make calls from the ONE DC office.

7. Become a member of ONE DC or sustain the movement by making a monthly donation.

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In the News - Washington Business Journal: "Mid-City Financial advances plans for controversial Northeast D.C. redevelopment" 09.27.16

A business-sector news piece, this article presents Mid-City Financial's redevelopment plan to create RIA, following the demolition of Brookland Manor and the Brentwood Village Shopping Center. The company submitted documents to further their plans despite a pending discrimination lawsuit against the redevelopment. The planned number of units are  1700, with 181,000 square feet of retail. The proposal eliminates most family-sized apartments, which has prompted the discrimination against family size lawsuit. Read the article at Washington Business Journal

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In the News - The Hilltop: "Brookland Manor v. Gentrification" 09.23.16

This article from the Howard University student newspaper includes an interview with one of the plaintiffs, a tenant at Brookland Manor. Adriann Borum describes her positive past experiences with community life at Brookland Manor and the negative impact that redevelopment plans have had on tenant quality of life. Communal outdoor grills have been removed, playing on a basketball court has been prohibited, and restrictions on outdoor activities have been implemented. Borum describes how it makes tenants - Black families specifically - feel like they are a problem in their own community. The redevelopment will impact Borum's family history at Brookland Manor (3 generations reside there) and will negatively affect the many multigenerational families that make Brookland Manor their home. Read the article at The Hilltop online

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In the News - Washington Post: "In gentrifying D.C., large apartments for families are quickly disappearing" 09.29.16

This article highlights the stories of individual Brookland Manor tenants as it details the potential impact of the redevelopment on the District's families. The developer has testified to the Zoning Commission that four- and five-bedroom apartments “are not consistent with the creation of a vibrant new community” and seeks to eliminate all four- and five-bedroom apartments. Mid-City Financial claims that large families can move to smaller units or be split up into several units. Advocates argue that families will instead be moved into poorer areas, substandard housing, be displaced from DC all together, or encounter homelessness. The developer argues that Mid-City Financial is supportive of affordable housing, but tenants and advocates see Mid-City following a city-wide pattern of displacement of low-income,  large families in favor of wealthier tenants with smaller or no families. Read the article at The Washington Post

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In the News - Courthouse News: "D.C. developers accused of pushing out poor" 08.26.16

A legal news source, Courthouse News Service describes the current class action lawsuit filed by tenants at Brookland Manor. Both claimants have 4-bedroom apartments, and the redevelopment plan calls for the removal of all 4 and 5 bedroom apartments. There are presently 116 units with four or five bedrooms, which are not common in the District of Columbia. Currently, only 8 percent of DC housing units have 4 bedrooms and only 4 percent have 5 or more bedrooms.

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In the News - Washington Legal Clinic: "Discriminatory development practices and the affordable housing crisis in D.C."

The article details the discrimination lawsuit filed by Covington and Burling, LLP and the Washington Lawyers' Committee. It describes who would likely be affected by Mid-City's redevelopment of Brookland Manor and how those effects violate both the federal Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act. The Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents' Association is working together with the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and ONE DC to fight the potential displacement and also the unfair tactics used by the property owner, Mid-City Financial. The struggle at Brookland Manor is connected with the broader fight for affordable housing across the District of Columbia. Redevelopment projects--approved by elected District leaders, zoning officials, and the Office of Planning--seek to create new communities but do so at the expense and displacement of long-term, low-income Washingtonians. Read more at Washington Legal Clinic

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