‘I want to be able to live like a human being’: Flatbush tenants sue landlord for mold, sewage leaks

flatbush apartment building
A group of Flatbush tenants are suing their landlord over moldy, decaying apartments.
Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Residents of a Flatbush apartment building are suing their landlord and demanding the court force building management to make improvements in their decaying units after raw sewage leaked into their apartments and units became infested with black mold and vermin.

With the help of the Flatbush Tenant Coalition and Brooklyn Legal Services, a group of tenants living at 240 East 18th St. filed a case against their building’s owners and the city’s departments of Health & Mental Hygeine, Buildings, and Housing Preservation and Development in Kings County Civil Court on Oct. 13.

mold at 240 E. 18th Street in Flatbush
Tenants say their apartments are mold-ridden and leaky.Photos courtesy of FTC.

Kwabena Ocran, one resident, blames the shoddy conditions on frequent leadership changes and “subpar management,” who he said don’t do enough to take care of the people who live in their building. 

“They knowingly do the minimum when it comes to repairs instead of addressing the issues at the source of the problems,” Ocran said in a statement. “The last two supers have quit in three years. When I asked why they said they were overwhelmed with work and management wasn’t in lockstep with the necessary supplies needed to do repairs.”

In July, an inspector confirmed seven of the eight units had mold, two had active sewage leaks. Walls and ceilings in some units tested wet at 99% on the inspector’s moisture meter, and they found new mold growth underneath new coats of paint. 

According to the inspector’s findings, multiple units on various floors had water damage due to steam, plumbing, radiator and bathroom waste line leaks. Some units had broken showers and bathtubs with cracked tiles showing visible mold. Another unit on the fourth floor tested positive for fecal coliform, the bacteria found in human waste, indicating a raw sewage leak.

Some apartments show mold growth in their bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms.
Some apartments show mold growth in their bathrooms, bedrooms, and living rooms. Photo courtesy of FTC

After the July inspection, tenants notified the building’s superintendent, who they said provided only a short-term patch job.

On Aug. 3. three tenants that were affected by the sewage leak filed a case against the property owners of the building in housing court. Those tenants settled in Kings County Civil Court on Oct. 18 when the owners — noted as 18 Street Reality Co. LLC, Marco Barron, Pinnacle Group NY LLC and Joel Wiener — agreed to make repairs in units affected by the raw sewage. 

The settled lawsuit is separate from the pending case that was filed on Oct. 13, which was filed against landlord David Rose, 18 Street Reality Co. LLC, Pinnacle Group NY LLC, and Joel Wiener.

Rose is listed as the landlord of the six-story Flatbush complex with 83 units. Rose allegedly owns at least three other Brooklyn buildings and is connected to a portfolio of 70 other buildings. Rose could not be reached for comment. 

Many of the tenants are Haitian immigrants who believe they are being neglected more compared to the newer, English-speaking residents, according to a spokesperson from FTC.

In their court filings, the group state they’ve had to watch their apartments rot as the landlord “poured money into renovating empty apartments to attract new kinds of tenants to their gentrifying Flatbush neighborhood.”

Marie Jean Claude, a Haitian woman who lives in the building, said her requests often go unheard or neglected.

“My problem is the mold that I’ve had for five years and they’ve never treated it. They just come to paint it over and of course, the mold returns,” Claude said in a statement translated from Haitian Creole. “When a tenant leaves, they clean and renovate the apartment for the next new tenant, but for those of us who have been living in the building for a long time, we don’t get repairs, just patchwork.”

When tenants told the superintendant about the sewage leak, they allegedly nailed a plastic sheet to the ceiling and neglected any further maintenance.
When tenants told the super intendant about the sewage leak, they allegedly nailed a plastic sheet to the ceiling and neglected any further maintenance. This photo was included in the tenants lawsuit. Photo by courtesy of Rajiv Jaswa/BLS.

Alberte Chachat, another long-time resident said no one should have to live in the conditions they have been forced to live in.

“I want to be able to live like a human being. Does the landlord think that he could live the way we do? People should not be showering in a bathroom that could get them sick,” Chachat said in a statement translated from Creole. “I dare the landlord to come take a shower in my shower in the state that it is in.”

The building at 240 East 18th St. has racked up over 70 violations from the city’s Housing Preservation and Development since 2017. Violations range from broken windows to full-on infestations of mice and mold. 

According to Sarah Guillet, a lead organizer with the FTC, neither Rose or his attorney appeared in court on Nov. 9. The group is now waiting on the judge to decide the next court date. 

(Update 11/15/2023 at 1:52 p.m.) : This story has been updated to correct the pronouns of one source and the spelling of Ocran. A previous version misidentified him as “Ocean”.