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Flophouse of horrors: Greenpoint Hotel residents sue landlord

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Tenants in a Greenpoint flophouse are suing their landlord for allegedly failing to perform necessary repairs and basic upkeep — letting rats, roaches, and bedbugs run rampant and leaving their Manhattan Avenue home dilapidated and dangerous.

Residents in the single-room-occupancy Greenpoint Hotel claim building owner Jay Deutchman has left parts of the building without heat for more than a year, forced tenants to go without water or hot water at times, and allowed sewage to overflow, bathroom fixtures to leak, and vermin to thrive.

“He’s taking advantage of weaker people,” said Bryan Morrison, a 62-year-old on disability who has lived in the building since 2004 — five years before Deutchman bought the property. “It’s like fighting tooth and nail to get anything fixed here.”

This lawsuit comes three years after tenants took Deutchman to court — an effort that forced the landlord to remedy a number of violations according to Brian Sullivan, senior staff attorney at MFY Legal Services, which is handling the tenants’ case pro-bono.

But after the first fix-up, conditions deteriorated quickly, Sullivan said.

“The repairs were mediocre and half-assed and the landlord was held in contempt of court,” said Sullivan, whose group was also behind the first case. “Now, once again, the conditions in that building have degenerated to where it’s unsafe and unhealthy.”

More than 110 men and one woman, most of them poor, elderly, or disabled, live in tiny bedrooms that line the Greenpoint Hotel’s narrow, winding hallways.

Some sections of the building smell like sewage while others reek of rot, with communal bathrooms — most of which do not have doors — outfitted with crumbling sinks, toilets, and showers.

Eliud Gonzalez, 67, said the building was in bad shape when he moved in in 2007, but only got worse after Deutchman bought it in 2009 — leading him to suspect the landlord is purposely neglecting the residence in hopes low-rent tenants will move out so he can renovate and charge higher prices.

“There were waterbugs the size of your left foot,” said Gonzalez, who complains of bedbug stains on his bed and claims a toilet next door to his room remained clogged for more than a year — and that at least two men who cleaned or used the foul fixture wound up hospitalized with infections.

But Deutchman’s attorney, Edward Deignan, said the landlord is a responsible property owner who regularly fixes up his building after tenants go out of their way to wreak havoc on it.

“Many of the tenants do not get the mental health assistance they need,” said Deignan. “In many cases, they have perpetrated acts of destruction in the building and my client has repaired them over and over again.”

The case will go before a housing court judge on April 16.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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Reader Feedback

Joseph from Marine park says:
These bed bugs are getting alot worse before they get any better. I own a exterminating business in brooklyn and we notice hundreds of phone calls, back to back, about bed bugs. People are thirsty for information about bed bugs and no one is quenching this thirst. If you have any bed bug questions visit http://www.bedbugs-brooklyn.com and click on the contact link and ask me any questions about bed bugs you may have. i know that knowledge is power and especially with bed bugs people must know the right and wrong thing to do.
March 9, 2013, 7:49 am
JAY from NYC says:
so the landlord is blaming the tenants for lack of heat and hot water?
Hmmm. OK so where is his proof? What, they go into the basement boiler room and break it?
It would be say to instal cameras and catch them in the act, and if what the landlord is claiming were true he would install cameras because it would be in his financial interest to do so. Or he could put a couple of security guards in as well. Sounds like b.s. to me.
March 9, 2013, 1:59 pm
Hofmom from Greenpoint says:
One of the gentlemen pictured in this article is a wonderful person. During nice weather, lots of people enjoy a clean visit to the Manhattan Ave Boat Launch thanks to him. Belonging to no group, and doing it just to be helpful, he pulls weeds, picks up trash, and bags garbage that other park users & pets leave behind. That how some of those "homies" "roll". So it's not cool to generalize people who need to live in the building because they've fallen on hard times. They have every right to demand a decent place to live. Many of the residents do more in the community that folks are aware of.
March 10, 2013, 12:16 pm
Mary from Greenpoint says:
How dare you call insult these poor people by calling where they live a "flophouse!" They are in a Single Room Occupancy residence, a specific NYC category of housing that at one time numbered in the tens of thousands. This is not some fly by night youth hostel. The landlord is clearly a slumlord, but not these long term residents. It sounds like he is trying to harass them out of their protected status to convert the building to a different use.

These people are tenants, they have rights, and they deserve your respect in their fight!
March 12, 2013, 1:23 pm
KaCee from E. Flatbush says:
My dad used to live in this place for years some time ago. I used to visit him there with my sons & tho it wasnt a place I liked him having to live in it certainly wasnt as bad as theyre saying it is now! That some scheming low life would prey on them is strictly declasse to be as kind as it can be said. If that s.o.b. landlord has money to hire some lying lecherous lawyer then it couldve avoided all this inhumanity & fixed the place up. BTW Jay, excellent point! Mary back when my dad lived there thats what they themselves called it. Now this owner has made it hell. Truthfully Im surprised its still there. My dad died over 15 years ago.
July 13, 5:43 am

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