Flophouse of horrors: Greenpoint Hotel residents sue landlord

Protest: Some tenants who live in 1109 Manhattan Ave. are suing to force the landlord to fix what they say are deplorable conditions that include rats, mold, and no hot water.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Tenants in a Greenpoint flophouse are suing their landlord for allegedly failing to perform necessary repairs and basic upkeep — letting rats, roaches, and bedbugs run rampant and leaving their Manhattan Avenue home dilapidated and dangerous.

Residents in the single-room-occupancy Greenpoint Hotel claim building owner Jay Deutchman has left parts of the building without heat for more than a year, forced tenants to go without water or hot water at times, and allowed sewage to overflow, bathroom fixtures to leak, and vermin to thrive.

“He’s taking advantage of weaker people,” said Bryan Morrison, a 62-year-old on disability who has lived in the building since 2004 — five years before Deutchman bought the property. “It’s like fighting tooth and nail to get anything fixed here.”

This lawsuit comes three years after tenants took Deutchman to court — an effort that forced the landlord to remedy a number of violations according to Brian Sullivan, senior staff attorney at MFY Legal Services, which is handling the tenants’ case pro-bono.

But after the first fix-up, conditions deteriorated quickly, Sullivan said.

“The repairs were mediocre and half-assed and the landlord was held in contempt of court,” said Sullivan, whose group was also behind the first case. “Now, once again, the conditions in that building have degenerated to where it’s unsafe and unhealthy.”

More than 110 men and one woman, most of them poor, elderly, or disabled, live in tiny bedrooms that line the Greenpoint Hotel’s narrow, winding hallways.

Some sections of the building smell like sewage while others reek of rot, with communal bathrooms — most of which do not have doors — outfitted with crumbling sinks, toilets, and showers.

Eliud Gonzalez, 67, said the building was in bad shape when he moved in in 2007, but only got worse after Deutchman bought it in 2009 — leading him to suspect the landlord is purposely neglecting the residence in hopes low-rent tenants will move out so he can renovate and charge higher prices.

“There were waterbugs the size of your left foot,” said Gonzalez, who complains of bedbug stains on his bed and claims a toilet next door to his room remained clogged for more than a year — and that at least two men who cleaned or used the foul fixture wound up hospitalized with infections.

But Deutchman’s attorney, Edward Deignan, said the landlord is a responsible property owner who regularly fixes up his building after tenants go out of their way to wreak havoc on it.

“Many of the tenants do not get the mental health assistance they need,” said Deignan. “In many cases, they have perpetrated acts of destruction in the building and my client has repaired them over and over again.”

The case will go before a housing court judge on April 16.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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