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Tenants at 98 Linden St. say owner Joel Israel punched a huge hole in a floor

Bushwick pols, tenants: Landlord sabotage must stop

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A Bushwick landlord punched massive holes in his rent-stabilized tenants’ floor to drive them out and jack up the rent, claim residents and politicians who are calling on the city to beef up laws to stop what they say is an epidemic of building owner sabotage.

The building at 98 Linden St. is owned by Joel Israel, who renters say pledged to paint and put in new floor tiles in June but instead ripped two 10-feet-wide craters in the floor in different rooms on the ground level and left it that way in a bid to make the apartment legally unlivable and, ultimately, make the building market-rate. A local official says that such tactics are not punished harshly enough by the government.

“He has decided to take advantage of the weak policies of the city,” Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Bushwick) during a press conference at the building.

The current fines for violating housing codes are low enough that landlords do whatever they want and accept the penalties as a cost of doing business, activists say. Noelia Calero, who lives on the ground floor at 98 Linden, has a hole in her living room that she can see the basement through, which she says has forced her, her husband, and her parents to use the kitchen and bathroom of an upstairs neighbor for the past 10 months. To add insult to extreme inconvenience, Israel hired a building resident to walk around the building playing loud music, accompanied by a mean dog, Calero said.

“He wants to evict everyone from the building,” she said. “I will not move out. I have lived here 23 years. This is my home.”

Israel owns 19 buildings throughout New York, 10 of which are in Brooklyn, including 300 Nassau Ave. in Greenpoint, where tenants were forced out after they say he took an ax to the boilers, thermostat, and circuit breakers. All of Israel’s buildings have been cited for code violations and many have apartments that are officially uninhabitable, but the costs he has incurred are small. Israel is currently facing less than $2,500 in fines for the dire state of the Linden Street apartment building.

Reynoso, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D–Bushwick), and a coalition of community groups are imploring the city to hit landlord saboteurs with more citations and to create laws that would allow the city to seize property from them if they fail to clean up their acts.

“It is unconscionable in the city of New York, which is the financial capital of the world, that we would allow what this landlord is doing to these tenants,” said Velazquez.

Israel did not respond to a request for comment.

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

K says:
I'm for gentrification but this is disgusting behavior . When people buy rent controlled buildings they don't mind the tax benefits but don't like the benefits to tenants later on with low rents. Don't they know they go hand in hand?
Greed greed greed
March 19, 2014, 8:52 pm
Notorious N.E.D. from Greenpoint says:
This is the problem with rent control. It begets this kind of behavior.

First of all, it's necessary to understand, their is nothing inherently 'greedy' about landlords. All businessmen seek to maximize their investments. From CEOs to the corner drug dealer, and everyone in between. There are degrees to how aggressive they are, but they all do it.

And of course, there are laws and such to act as deterrents. But that's all they are... deterrents. If there is a buck to be made someone is going to push the limits to make it. That's just human nature.

Trying to put an end to this behavior would be like trying to get Tom to stop chasing Jerry. It's not going to happen. As long as there is a buck to be made, and the rent control laws remain as they are, this will happen. Antonio Reynoso can puff out his chest all he wants, but he can't really do anything about it.

So it's the same old story. For the landlord it's a business. The time, energy, and aggravation involved in something like this is factored in. I'm not going to defend it, but they know what they're doing.

If I were a tenant however, I'd think long and hard about the wisdom of making fighting over a stabilized apartment in Bushwick, either my plan, or the focus of my life. It's a losing proposition.
March 19, 2014, 9:19 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I disagree, Ned. Reynoso serves on a legislative body that could make the punishment for this much more severe. Unlike his crusade to stop gentrification by making it illegal to build places for people to live, he has a point here.

I think Reynoso's attempt to stop new construction encourages this sort of behavior from landlords though. He should reconsider that.
March 20, 2014, 12:42 am
Notorious N.E.D. from Greenpoint says:
Boiled down, it's a business agreement between two parties that one party no longer wants to be in.

Thinking that this type of situation is going to be functional is foolish. There is going to be conflict, and the more money on the table, the greater the conflict.

There are already laws on the books. How much time, money and energy can the politicians, courts and police spend enforcing this type of thing? Putting a story in the press is easy. Proving it in court is a whole another thing. Landlords have money for good lawyers. They can try and make the punishment more severe, but if there is enough money to be made, the landlords will find new ways to do the same old thing. It's an inevitable conclusion.
March 20, 2014, 1:09 am
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
This is just a taste of the snakepit Bushwick will become with a moratorium on new residential development. The very poor and the exotic rich competing for a limited supply of aging housing. And landlords who will stop at nothing to oust the poor. But no new buildings to take pressure off the supply. No yuppies, no new middle class to stabilize the neighborhood economically and socially.
March 20, 2014, 1:13 am
"Interloper" from Kent Ave says:
K - I'm with you on this one. Prior to living in my current place I dealt with guys from the same group when I was renting. They're total scumbags and have really questionable business practices.

Gentrification is progress and under normal circumstances I really wouldn't care about the people complaining about the rising rents. Reynoso is also an absolute joke of a politician...the guy used to work for ACORN for chrissake... However, saboteur tactics like this are absolutely unwarranted though and this guy should be in jail for what he did.
March 20, 2014, 1:11 pm
Idiot from Hater says:
Not that I'm a hater, just with other idiots like Ned who try to find an excuse for this landlord! Blame the victim much, Ned? Hey, do you own Home Depot?
March 20, 2014, 2:58 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
What these tenants need to do is make the repairs themselves and dock the bill against the rent. Then keep filing complaints, get city inspectors in there, make more repairs, and dock every receipt they can generate against the rent. Keep that pace going and they'll never pay rent again. And in a few years the tenants will own the building.
March 20, 2014, 3:12 pm
The Chooch from The Bohemian Magic Show says:
The tenants can even sabotage parts of the building themselves, then fix it better than it was, and hold it against the rent. Two can play this game and tenants should play. Don't be a victim. Seize this opportunity to seize a building for yourselves.
March 20, 2014, 3:15 pm
jay from nyc says:
didnt we already play this out in the 1970s up in the south bronx? Bring criminal charges against the landlord already
March 20, 2014, 6:36 pm
JOE from NYC says:
very simple solution....take the brothers out and chop em up
April 16, 2015, 12:36 pm

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