December 9, 2010

Congratulations to April Goggans!

Last night, April Goggans, a member of Bread’s Consumer Advisory Board and President of the Marbury Plaza Concerned Tenants Association, received an Activist Award from the Washington Peace Center.

(Photo by Danny Harris of People's District )

Bread for the City attorneys provided April and the MPCTA with legal advice and representation during their campaign to win repairs and other investments from Marbury’s owners – learn more here and here. We’re pleased as punch that WPC recognized April's leadership.

Here’s an excerpt from her story, which was featured in People’s District today:

“While I love my neighborhood, my building has been a different story. After I moved into my place in October 2006, I started to notice things that weren’t right. Most of the apartments would flood because of old piping. There were a lot of security incidents in and around the building. There were times when we didn’t have heat or air conditioning. The building didn’t seem to be doing anything about this other than making minor repairs that never seemed to fix the major problems.

“In April 2007, the building got an offer to sell, and I was talking to my neighbor, who is a lawyer about it. I had no idea of tenants rights or anything like that at the time. She told me that the tenants would also have an opportunity to purchase the building. I thought that the opportunity to give so many people of color an opportunity to own property was incredible, so we organized a tenant’s association and put a board together to try and purchase the building. In the end, it didn’t happen for a number of reasons, mostly because we got screwed by the developers we selected, but the experience taught me about our rights as tenants and got me involved in the building.

“After that whole process, the Marbury Plaza was never sold, and is still owned by the Lightstone Group out of New York. After we took the action to try and buy our own building from the owners, they stopped caring about the facilities and let them fall apart. It got to the point where almost every apartment had been flooded, most people had been witness to a crime in the building, the disabled had trouble getting into one of the buildings because it was not ADA accessible, and we would go for periods without heat and air conditioning. The conditions were terrible.

“As the owners weren’t doing anything to seriously address these things, the tenant association and I started calling every city agency that handles codes and having them come to see the conditions we were living in. We managed to bring every department in here from recycling to health to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. We wanted to document all of these things and start to hold the owner and management company accountable. To add to that, 80 of us started to withhold rent over two years ago to make a point that this was not acceptable. We had the elderly, disabled, single Moms, working families, single professionals, and all kinds of other people involved in taking this stand against the owners. We really got a boost of support this past summer when after going two weeks without air conditioning, the D.C. Attorney General finally got involved on our behalf.

"Now, after a number of years of fighting it out, with much of that time in the courts and dealing with appeal after appeal, we are in the final stages of a settlement with the building. Those of us who withheld our rent will get an abatement and the building has promised to make the necessary repairs and adjustments to bring the building up to code. While nothing is ever perfect, and there are people who feel like the settlement is not enough, I view it as a success. The 1,000 to 1,500 residents here will finally be able to live with regular heat and air conditioning and free of animal infestation, security problems, and constant concerns by the disabled about getting into and out of their buildings. We couldn’t get everything, but I think that these changes will make all of our lives here better.
Congratulations, April! You're an inspiration.

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