Beep invites angry tenants to share landlord horror stories

Greenpointers still frozen out of rent-stabilized digs by alleged sabotage
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is show and tell and litigate.

Brooklyn renters can share their landlord horror stories at a series of town hall meetings around the borough this month, and Borough Hall may slap the worst property owners with lawsuits.

Borough President Adams says he is organizing the kvetch sessions to stop slumlords from forcing tenants out of rent-stabilized homes by making their buildings impossible to live in. The exhausted inhabitants often give in while the landlords just receive a slap on the wrist, Adams said, and the borough needs to crack down before that happens.

“Harmful landlords are playing games with the health and safety of their tenants, and they think that fines are just a cost of doing business,” said Adams. “Denying someone heat, hot water, sanitation, or other basic services is not a negotiation tactic — it’s a crime.”

The Beep is teaming up with civil rights lawyer Norman Seigel and tenants’ rights organization Brooklyn Legal Services, which will investigate the renters’ claims for potential civil suits. The attorneys will also send the cases to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and the Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force for possible criminal charges.

Thompson said he fired the first shots in a city-wide war on bad landlords when he filed a criminal indictment in April against alleged Brooklyn slumlords Joel and Amron Israel. The brothers are accused of smashing holes in floors and walls of their buildings, and destroying boilers, thermostats, and electrical systems to try to force their rent-stabilized tenants to leave.

The pair, who are now out on bail, face up to 15 years in prison on the charges, which include burglary and unlawful eviction.

As rent levels continue to rise across Brooklyn, more and more landlords are using these kind of tactics to get rid of their low-income tenants, said one tenants rights attorney.

“This is a very real and common problem, and we are glad that others are finally starting to echo that,” said Adam Meyers, who said his firm gets between five and 10 complaints each month.

The first town hall is scheduled for July 14 at Brooklyn Borough Hall Downtown. The next will be on July 16th at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Centerin Bedford-Stuyvesant, and the last one schedule for now will be on July 28 at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. They will all start at 6 pm.

Aggrieved tenants who cannot make one of the meetings can still e-mail their testimony to askeric@brooklynbp.nyc.gov.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Caution: Tenant Noelia Calero claims landlord Joel Israel cut giant holes in her kitchen and living room floors.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini