“We are here because our landlord, Fineberg Management, has ignored and dismissed our maintenance requests and our complaints.”
Nearly 80 renters and community members turned out last Saturday at the Institute for Contemporary Art/Boston for a one-time matinee. Instead of perusing the museum’s collections, these tenants staged their own gallery exhibit outside with artistic renderings of the shoddy living conditions within the buildings owned by landlord Gerald Fineberg.
“We are here because our landlord, Fineberg Management, founded by Gerald Fineberg of the Gerald and Sandy Fineberg Art Wall behind us, has ignored and dismissed our maintenance requests and our complaints,” said Dan Albright, an organizer with the autonomous Fineberg Tenants Union.
Fineberg, who maintains addresses in Boston and Palm Beach according to corporate records, owns nearly 50 large apartment buildings in the neighborhoods of Fenway, Allston, Brighton, and Brookline. The tenants union chose the ICA as the venue for this direct action as Fineberg is a sizable donor to the institution, including the support of the aforementioned Art Wall. In a press release ahead of the action, the Fineberg Tenants Union had this to say about their landlord:
Over 140 tenants facing slum-like conditions, high rents, and illegal COVID-19 eviction proceedings have been dismissed and ignored by major Boston corporate landlord Fineberg Management and its founder Gerald Fineberg. Tenants across Boston are fighting back against rent gouging and a pending wave of COVID-19 evictions.
At the protest, FTU organizers staged an art wall featuring renditions of real photos taken in Fineberg-managed buildings. This makeshift wall was an homage to the Gerald and Sandy Fineberg Art Wall, a permanent installation within the front entrance of the ICA/Boston. One organizer with the FTU, donning a beret and name badge, served as a docent for the tenants’ art wall as curious onlookers passed by.
Roughly 75 people turned out to Saturday’s action, representing not only the FTU but also the Greater Boston Tenants Union, the Aim as 1 (Samia) Tenants Union, and the Industrial Workers of the World Boston chapter.
Requests for comment sent to both the ICA and multiple representatives of Fineberg Management, including Gerald Fineberg, were not returned.
Saturday’s action marks the first springtime demonstration to follow a series of 2020 actions aimed at tenants rights. An earlier action, on June 27, 2020, targeted fellow Boston landlord Leonard J. Samia at his corporate office in Brighton. These actions follow what renters say has been an inadequate and occasionally unlawful handling of the COVID-19 economic crisis by Boston-area landlords.
Hassan Ghanny is a writer and journalist based between Boston and Puerto Rico. His writing has been featured in the Boston Globe and WBUR, and explores the intersections of media, culture, and identity.