Maggie Gallagher
The thing I like about Ronnie Fatato is, he doesn't fake it. "This isn't Russia!" he barks to The New York Times reporter who is investigating his latest rent hikes in the 12 unregulated apartments he owns. He's not saying he's a saint; he doesn't let anybody call him a louse, either. In my book, that makes him almost a hero.

In Park Slope, where I used to live, there are a lot of people who've been dabbling with moral superiority by conducting a campaign of hate against Ronnie, whose grandfather Luigi settled in Park Slope in 1912, or about 80 years before most of his critics started gentrifying this neighborhood with their presence.

Seems rents are skyrocketing in Park Slope, like a lot of other places in America. Ronnie warned his tenants, months in advance, that when the lease was up he was going to raise their rent 30 percent or more. To make it easier, he paid moving expenses and waived back rent. Ronnie isn't one of those brutal landlords New York City produces so many of, who try to harass people out. Everyone agrees he's been a decent landlord.

But when Ronnie Fatato refused to let one single mother stay at last year's rent, she turned to the Fifth Avenue Committee, which had recently declared 36 blocks of lower Park Slope a "displacement-free zone." They got her a lawyer -- no use, because the eviction was legal. They got a priest to intervene -- Ronnie didn't appreciate the guilt trip. So then they did something smarmy and unconscionable: They conducted a deliberate campaign of hate against Ronnie Fatato. Volunteers handed out nasty fliers with slogans such as "Don't let Ronald Fatato grind our neighborhood into meat patties."

Brad Lander, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, sums up his group's message like this: "Don't be greedy. Honor our racial and economic diversity along with your bank account."

Of course, the real message of these self-righteous yuppies is: Let them use your bank account, but keep away from ours. If helping one single mother keep her apartment was the point, why didn't the Fifth Avenue Committee ask for donations to help her pay the rent increase? If housing space is at a premium, why don't they each agree to rent a room or two out of the spacious Victorian brownstones they inhabit to help a poor Hispanic single mother?

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.