City files suit against infamous Dean Street landlords

dean street
Tenants of 1214 Dean St., and landlord Gennaro Brooks-Church.
Photo by Ben Verde

The city is suing a notorious pair of Brooklyn slumlords for an alleged attempt to evict tenants from their Crown Heights townhouse amid the state’s eviction moratorium, the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants announced Tuesday.

The landlords, Gennaro Brooks-Church and Loretta Gendville, allegedly harassed and locked tenants out of their home at 1214 Dean St. in July, prompting tenant activists to occupy the stoop of the disputed brownstone and halt the eviction attempt in its tracks. 

“This administration will not tolerate landlords who illegally evict and harass tenants out of their homes, and we will take forceful action like today’s lawsuit to make that very clear,” said Ricardo Martínez Campo, deputy director of the mayor’s newly formed tenant protection bureau. “For landlords who think they can rely on these tactics and make them part of their business model, know that you are on notice, and we will not hesitate to bring you to Court.” 

Brooks-Church and Gendville, two prominent business owners who have profited off the tastes of gentrified Brooklyn for the better part of two decades, are accused of storming into their Dean Street property over the summer and demanding back-rent from tenants who could not afford to pay during the pandemic.

The landlords then allegedly told the occupants that they would have to be out by a certain date, before showing up unannounced one day before that date with a moving truck full of their belongings. The couple then allegedly proceeded to move their tenant’s belongings out onto the street and move theirs in.

New York State’s pandemic-related eviction moratorium remains in effect until Jan. 1, and even without a moratorium, landlords must go to court and get the permission of a judge to evict a tenant.

The city’s Law Department ordered a cease and desist on the attempted eviction days after it took place. The lawsuit filed on Nov. 17 seeks civil penalties for violations of the city’s Unlawful Eviction Law, a finding of tenant harassment against defendants, and violation of construction codes including unpermitted construction.

The New York State Attorney General has also launched an investigation into the landlords. 

“Inflicting additional trauma onto those struggling to stay afloat during a pandemic by threatening eviction without process is not only immoral, but illegal,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “No one should fear having their home taken away at a time when their very life depends on social distancing and staying home; and no one should live in fear of reprisal from their landlord for asserting their lawful rights.”

Reached by phone, Brooks-Church declined to comment on the lawsuit. Gendville could not be reached by deadline.