Ditmas Park residents demand repairs to fire damage after a year of displacement

Flatbush Tenant Coalition members protested outside of Kings County Housing Court in Downtown Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Photo by Jessica Parks

More than a year after a massive inferno engulfed a Ditmas Park apartment building, the landlord has made limited progress in restoring the fire damage — leaving 18 families displaced from their homes since February of 2019. 

“I have gone into the apartment a few times to see, but nothing has been done,” said Esperanza Pena, who joined a protest on Tuesday. 

Faulty electrical wiring ignited the blaze inside the E. 18th Street building near Albemarle Road on Feb. 25 of last year, leading the city’s Department of Buildings to institute a partial vacate order for the building. 

Since then, the 18 displaced families have been personally footing the bill for their relocation costs — with some staying with family, and others finding other temporary housing. 

The tenants first took legal action against the landlords, Juda Rosenfeld and JBM Estates, for the fire-related damage in April 2019, demanding speedy repairs and compensation for their relocation costs — as well as for Rosenfeld to be held in contempt of court for the alleged slow pace of reconstruction. 

The Kings County Housing Court later issued a Jan. 31 move-back date, when the building’s managers were supposed to have completed the necessary renovations — but they blew past that deadline, and the court granted them an extension.

Now, the tenants have taken to protesting the court’s decision, which they claim gives undo preference to landlords, according to an organizer with the Flatbush Tenant Coalition.

“We are protesting a housing court system that works only for the landlords and not the tenants,” said Estefania Trujillo Preciado at Tuesday’s demonstration outside the courthouse. 

The tenants have pointed out that Rosenfeld has been a notoriously poor landlord, racking up numerous different complaints and violations over the past several years.  

In 2016, the E. 18th Street building’s tenants filed a lawsuit against Rosenfeld calling on the landlord to repair the building’s electrical wiring and mitigate other hazardous conditions after the Department of Housing and Preservation deemed the building “immediately hazardous” in 2015.

The residents of another Rosenfeld property, at 1800 Albemarle Rd., have filed over 80 complaints, resulting in over 60 Department of Building violations, for water damage, mold, and other porous conditions. 

Rosenfeld and JBM Estates could not be reached for comment.