Bed-Stuy tenants say life in MacDonough Street building ‘torture’ after landlord ignored court order for repairs

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Tenants at 25 MacDonough Street are seeking to hold their landlord and management company in contempt of court orders after they say the owners failed to make repairs or pay fines ordered by a judge.
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Tenants of a Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment are seeking to hold their landlord in contempt of court after they say the building’s owners failed to make critical repairs even after ordered to do so by a Brooklyn civil court judge.

The landlords and managers of 25 MacDonough St. in February received a Notice of Violation and Default Order to correct a myriad of building safety violations, according to the filing, and in June, the court demanded they pay the petitioners $250 per day for each day the violations stayed open, reduce the tenants’ rent, and pay the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development a whopping $300,0000. 

Months later, tenants Gail Prescod and Lorna Holder say no repairs have been made – and they have not received any of the money their landlords, Lynne Callender, Lamarr Jones, and the Gilmer Holding Corporation, were supposed to hand over. Prescod and Holder filed a lawsuit against building management in housing court last fall, claiming the 19-unit building was riddled with mold and vermin, was structurally unsound, and had been without cooking gas for years.

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Tenants say their building is rife with leaks, pests, mold, and more — and that their landlords have not made any repairs since a court ordered them to do so last year.Photo courtesy Ryan McCormick

Despite multiple court orders in several cases, no changes have been made, Prescod and Holder claim. As of Oct. 25, HPD has recorded 207 open violations at 25 MacDonough Street — including 124 classified as “hazardous” and 107 as “immediately hazardous.” Several apartments are without cooking gas, according to the complaints, and some have broken windows and floors, infestations of mice and roaches, and ongoing water leaks, according to HPD.

“I have no working stove and have had no gas service for three years since the entire building’s gas service was disconnected by National Grid in October of 2018 because of a gas leak in the building’s basement,” Holder said. “A call to the Department of Buildings earlier this year revealed that the landlord, who is now blaming a plumber for the gas service not being restored, did not apply for permits for the pipes installed in the apartments early last year. The heat has been non-existent or inadequate since the beginning of the heat season as it is every year.”

There are more open violations logged with the city’s Department of Buildings — one, from 2018, says stucco from the building’s exterior fell onto an adjacent property. Gilmer Holding Corp. now owes the department more than $12,000 in penalties for failing to remedy the four-year-old violation. 

On Oct. 13, Prescod and Holder’s lawyer, Altagracia Pierre-Outerbridge, filed a document asking that the court issue an order holding the defendants in contempt of court — a charge she says is punishable with jail time, a fine, or both — and to order the landlords make an appearance in court. 

In 2017, the city foreclosed on the building and transferred it to a nonprofit for renovations and restoration — but, two years later, a judge overruled the transfer and gave the property back to Gilmer, saying the Third Party Transfer program the city had used to make the switch was not applicable in the case of 25 MacDonough Street.

This month, a Kings County Civil Court judge found Jones, Callender and Gilmer Holding Corp. in contempt of court orders as part of a different case against the landlords and ordered them to pay $2 million in fines, according to Law360. The property owners were twice ordered to remedy HPD violations but failed to do so, according to court documents, and must now pay up by January 2023. 

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The building has over 200 open HPD violations including over 100 deemed “immediately hazardous.” The landlords were recently found in contempt of court orders in another case. Photo courtesy Ryan McCormick

An email to Jones’ email address at his realty company was bounced back, and another representative did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The defendants also failed to comply with a subpoena, according to the Oct. 13 filing, and their own lawyers sought to withdraw from representing them in court because they were uncooperative and refused to comply with court orders.

“In the kitchen there is a big hole management cut to put a plate to hold up the fire escape from falling down, this causes rats, mice, roaches and other insects to enter at [their] convenience,” said Tony, another 25 MacDonough St. tenant. “There’s water stains in the ceiling coming from the radiator above, also cracks in the ceiling … most of all, no gas over over three years, if this is not torture I don’t know what is.”