Landlords Destroy Their Own Buildings to Push out Rent Regulated Tenants

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    As market rents rise dramatically in North Brooklyn, landlords are destroying their own buildings to get rent-regulated tenants to move, according to stories in Gothamist and The New York Times today. Meanwhile, landlords are suing the new state agency designed to crack down on unscrupulous landlords who harass tenants or commit fraud to decontrol their buildings, The Wall Street Journal reported.

    Gothamist details the story of Catalina Hidalgo, a tenant at 300 Nassau in Greenpoint who until recently was paying $754 a month in rent. After Hidalgo, an expediter and mother of two 18-month-old twins, reported the landlord for mishandling asbestos abatement during a gut renovation of the apartment below her, the supporting beam under her bathroom was removed. In December, the building’s boilers, water heater, and electrical systems were destroyed with an axe. The DOB issued a full vacate order for the six-unit building. One of the tenants is living in a homeless shelter; the others are staying with friends.

    As it happens, the landlord, Joel Israel, is also the landlord of 98 Linden Street in Bushwick, profiled in the Times today. Brownstoner readers may be familiar with the story, which Brooklyn Bureau detailed last month. Under the guise of making repairs, the landlord ripped out floors, walls and plumbing in the kitchens and bathrooms of the two first floor apartments. Eight months later, the construction wreckage is still there and can be seen in a Times video.

    Some new twists in the case: When the DOB fined the landlord for demo without a permit, the landlord successfully argued that the tenants had done it, despite a case against him for hundreds of violations by the Department of Housing and Preservation.

    Gentrification has pushed so far out in Brooklyn that tenants are moving out of New York City altogether.

    “The market for housing has expanded enough that there’s a demand for expensive apartments even that far out [in Brownsville and Canarsie],” Gothamist quoted Cypress Hills Development Corporation tenant organizer Dubois Thomas as saying. “I see it coming down Bushwick Avenue toward East New York — I literally see it. It’s kind of scary.”

    Under Bloomberg, more than 60,000 rent regulated units were decontrolled, said the Times.

    A tenant at 193 Bedford Avenue in north Williamsburg who works as a home attendant and street vendor was forced to move to Coney Island where she pays twice the rent when the city issued a vacate order because the building was in danger of “imminent collapse” because of the landlord’s “renovations,” according to Gothamist. The building has since been restored but the tenant cannot return to the building because her apartment has been rented to someone else for $3,000 a month.

    Yesterday, landlords sued the state over the creation of a state agency, Tenant Protection Unit, designed to prevent exactly these sorts of abuses, claiming it is unfair to landlords.

    De Blasio ran on a platform of ending these kinds of abuses and recently said he plans to strengthen tenant protection to prevent homelessness. He has also said he wants to increase development of new buildings and affordable units in them. Do you think these policies will work?

    Gentrification Sparks Surge in Landlord Sabotage in North Brooklyn [Gothamist]
    Tenants Living Amid Rubble in Rent-Regulated Apartment War [NY Times]
    The Fight for 98 Linden [NY Times]
    New York City Landlords Sue Over Tenant Protections [WSJ]
    Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

     

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