A community is rallying around a local laundromat owner tonight. They say the landlord kicked him out without giving him a chance to clean out his equipment. Now hundreds of thousands of dollars are locked inside with his customers clothes.
"Let Mr. Edwards in! It's a good idea. Let him in," neighbors yelled from their cars as they passed Island Bubbles Laundromat Wednesday.
For almost 13 years, Bruce Edwards ran the Crown Heights laundromat. At first, he owned the building, but after falling on hard times he was forced to sell. In 2013, the real-estate company MySpace offered to buy the property while allowing Edwards to continue operating the laundromat. He signed a 10 year lease, with a rent increase after the first five years. But their relationship strained.
"In April, one of the partners said we're not going to renew your lease and a whole bunch of stuff started going on," Edwards said.
Edwards agreed to move on and was removing his things, but on Oct. 31, he says the marshals came in and locked up the laundromat with his machines and his customers wardrobes still inside.
"It's a lot of equipment to move, it's not something you can do on a whim," Edwards said. "It didn't take one day to put them inside, it's not going to take one day to pull them out."
When neighbors and customers learned about the situation, they came to Edwards' defense, posting flyers around the neighborhood, and trying to help him get his machines and their clothes.
"There are people that I assume have large portions of their wardrobes locked up in that building" said customer Jenny Blair. "I don't like the strong arming, I don't like the bullying."
Edwards estimates that the machines inside are worth over $250,000 and it's costing him more than $1,000 a day in business. But he says what's really important is the fact that he feels like he's letting his customers down.
"I got customers calling me yesterday, 'I need my clothes, that's all the clothes that I have. Can you please let me inside there so I can get all of my stuff?'"
Now the anti-gentrification group Equality for Flatbush has stepped in to try and help by raising awareness. They say there's no reason his lively-hood should be held hostage.
"Why hold onto his things, it just seems so punitive and it seems so disrespectful," said Imani Henry. "We just say, allow Mr. Edwards to get his property, allow Island Bubbles to leave this corner with dignity."
We reached out to MySpace repeatedly for comment on this story but did not hear back. If he's able to get his things, Edwards says he's ready to open his business at a nearby location.