Notorious Brooklyn slumlord siblings Joel and Amrom Israel will not serve any time in prison after admitting they trashed rent-stabilized apartments to force their low-income tenants out, the district attorney announced on Tuesday — outraging the lawyer for one victim who says the duo got a “slap on the wrist” just because they’re white real estate moguls.
“We’re very disappointed, if they were low-income people of color they would be going to jail,” said Judith Goldiner, head attorney at the Legal Aid Society. “The Israels are the worst kind of people and the idea that they will receive no jail time is appalling.”
As part of plea deal with District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, they ’fessed up to a scheme of making life miserable for residents from eight rent-stabilized units across five of their 10 buildings in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick between 2010 and 2014, in an effort to force the denizens out and jack up the rent to market rates.
The brothers’ tactics included demolishing kitchens and bathrooms, hiring goons to smash up apartments, recruiting intimidating “security guards” to wander the halls with pit bulls and baseball bats, and, in one case, building a wall to block a man’s front door, they admitted.
As punishment, the pair have to cough up roughly $248,000 in restitution — with each victim receiving between $12,000 and $68,000.
They must also set up a $100,000 fund to cover expenses tenants incurred from the harassment, perform 500 hours of community service, and will be on probation for five years.
The criminal conviction is the first from a special tenant-harassment task-force city and state authorities set up in 2015, promising to bring the “full force of the law” down on bad landlords, and the borough’s top attorney said he thinks the result sends a strong message.
“Landlords across Brooklyn should be put on notice by today’s felony guilty pleas that illegal actions they may take to harass and intimidate tenants in rent regulated apartments will not go unpunished,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
But without prison time, Goldiner thinks the penalty just tells other slumlords that they can abuse their tenants for a fee.
“If you get caught, the cost of doing business is a slap on the wrist,” she said.
“We’re not sending the right message throughout the city as shameless landlords are robbing people of their decency,” said the Beep, a former police officer. “We need to explore tougher penalties.”
The district attorney’s office refused to comment on the criticism.