Community members gathered in Binghamton to participate in a cleanup event.

The meeting was hosted by the Southern Door Community Land Trust (SDCLT) — a Black-led neighborhood group of housing advocates dedicated to founding and establishing a community land trust in Broome County. On Saturday, March 11, participants met at an apartment building on Binghamton’s Florence Street to clean up the housing complex and street, as well as part of the two adjacent streets — Main Street and Charlotte Street.

Saturday’s cleanup event was the first of its kind hosted by the SDCLT, which hopes to hold the event once or twice per year. The event was organized to “take a stand against predatory, private landlords,” according to Hajra Aziz, the executive director of the SDCLT. Aziz explained that the housing crisis is particularly harmful to Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) residents in the Binghamton area, and events such as the cleanup are necessary for the well-being of individuals who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

“Such a display can also inspire the most marginalized members of our community to get involved again,” Aziz wrote in an email. “Those living in the poorest neighborhoods have already been stigmatized and relegated to the sidelines. The Community Cleanup is an opportunity to show those residents currently living at the land trust (and in the surrounding area) that the community hasn’t given up on them yet.”

The organization also expressed a deep-rooted belief in community. An invitation email from the SDCLT described the importance of the event being a collective effort.

“This event is a chance for all of us in Binghamton to make a statement to the city and private landlords — no one person or group can make this change alone,” the letter reads. “To make a community land trust work, we need the community to buy in. For SDCLT to establish a network of affordable housing options, for residents and students alike, we need your support.”

Aside from community residents, the event was also attended by both high school and college students.

One such student was Vivica Coston, from Binghamton High School. Coston explained her reasoning for attending the event, which included concern for the residents residing in the area.

“I came out here because it is really important that people feel comfortable in their own homes and don’t feel ashamed of trash or of having their house dirty,” Coston said. “I know some people can’t do these things themselves, so it is really important we come out here.”

Among the Binghamton University students attending was Jada Charter, a senior majoring in women and gender studies. Charter described their initial reaction to learning of the problems facing the Binghamton community.

“When I first got [to Binghamton], I wasn’t really aware of how bad the homeless crisis was here in Binghamton and in Broome County in general,” Charter said. “So I wanted to do this volunteer service because I think it’s really important since a lot of the residents here really are underserved and not really cared for.”

Other members in attendance also placed focus on the housing crisis in Broome County.

As explained by Aziz, the SDCLT believes that “community members and college students alike” are impacted by Broome County’s housing crisis. The affected individuals, she claims, can work together to combat their shared struggle.

“This is not a situation of community members versus students — it’s all of us versus private landlords,” Aziz wrote in an email. “The establishment of a viable land trust in the area has the potential to benefit both populations in question — providing permanently affordable housing for all.”

Another BU student at the event was JP Dillon, a senior majoring in environmental studies. Like Aziz, Dillon expressed concern about the way landlords treat residents in Binghamton.

“I believe in the mission of the [SDCLT],” Dillon said. “I think we have a lot of landlords here and a lot of people like to talk about the problem. I think this is a very viable solution, so I want to see it succeed and I want to be a part of that.”