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North Brooklyn tenants say property managers block organizing efforts

Billy Taylor, an organizer for a Goose tenants association outside 26 West in Greenpoint.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

A north Brooklyn luxury property manager is trying to stop tenants from organizing, according to current and former residents.

Tenant organizers say Goose Property Management, which oversees roughly 1,500 apartments across 10 buildings for developer Rabsky Group in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Queens, has tried to stifle independent resident communications for the past year.

“I want us to be able to talk openly, I want to level the playing field and if people want to organize, let them organize,” said Billy Taylor, who lives at 26 West in Greenpoint.

The Brooklynite set up a group chat for residents of the 96-unit building at Calyer Street on Slack in July due to what he said was a lack of COVID-19 safety measures in the building.

“Their attitude was basically ‘we’re not going to tell people what to do,’” Taylor said.

He started hanging posters in the building’s lobby advertising the chat and sent hundreds of postcards to tenants at other Goose-managed properties, however the fliers were removed 10 times over the past year by management, Taylor suspects.

“We talk about issues and rent negotiations or random late fees — yeah obviously that’s the stuff they don’t want us to be talking about,” he said. 

One early example was when building managers closed off the rooftop to guests in July, but a week later they apparently rented it to a resident who held a large birthday party, according to Taylor.

“There were people spilling into the hallways,” he said. “The apathy by the owner and just the neglect has been astonishing.”

Similar issues plagued the Rheingold, a massive 500-unit building at the site of a former brewery by the same name on Montieth Street in Brooklyn.

The Rheingold building at 10 Montieth St. in Bushwick.Photo by Craig Hubert

A longtime resident of that building, who asked not to be named for fear of repercussions, said management failed to take actions against tenants hosting large parties throughout the summer, allowing guests into the building seemingly without controls in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“[A neighbor] was turning his apartment into a super-spreader event during COVID,” said the Rheingold resident. “There were people from the neighborhood gaining access to our building and our rooftop, because they knew there was only one person at the front desk for a building of 500 units… They could just blow right through the lobby.”

The Bushwick resident formed her own tenants association there two years ago and joined forces with Taylor when she heard about his efforts.

Goose does offer a bulletin board at their buildings for notices — but they require management approval — and residents want their own channels of communications to discuss things like negotiating rent reductions during COVID-19, or exchange tips about unsafe conditions. 

“Goose has muzzled some of these communications within the places they have control over,” said a former tenant of the Halo in Long Island City, who also asked not to be named. “I think communication should not be limited. I think we have the right to share things that happened.”

The resident said that in 2017 when an air conditioning unit caught fire on the building’s roof, no one informed tenants about what happened as firefighters stormed into the building to put out the flames. 

When he posted a message warning other residents in the building’s official bulletin board, it was taken down. 

He recently packed up and left after years of unaddressed complaints with Goose. Among them were issues as simple as failing to provide legally-required stove knob covers.

“They made my units uninhabitable because with two kids and the safety I don’t want the gas to leak, because eventually I could have had a fire,” he said. “I asked them 3 years in a row and they did nothing about it.”

Taylor, of 26 West, believes management twice tried to infiltrate the Slack group with fake profiles. One of the applicants he suspected of being phony provided a unit number that didn’t exist in the building and also left a glowing online review of Goose. Another applicant reached out to Taylor’s personal email address which he never provided with the fliers.

Neither Goose nor Rabsky responded to requests for comment for this story.

He urged local pols to take a tougher stance against the developer, who plans to build several big projects in the borough, including the recently-approved tower at 69 Adams St. in Dumbo, the 941-foot skyscraper at 625 Fulton St., and the Broadway Triangle affordable housing complex at the border of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. 

Unfortunately for the the activists, building owners do not legally have to allow tenants to hang posters in common areas, since they’re private property, according to Elki Light a landlord-tenant attorney with the Manhattan law offices of Ari Mor Esq.

“It’s just common sense, a landlord’s not going to let you put that into a common area,” Light said. 

Instead, activists and organizers should just mail fliers to tenants directly or leave them under their doorstep, the legal eagle said. 

Goose management did eventually let Taylor hang one poster in a dedicated frame in the mailing room of 26 West, after he reached out to local Councilman Stephen Levin who then contacted Rabsky co-owner Simon Dushinsky.

However, posters the tenants group hung up at Rheingold and the Driggs on N. Ninth Street were torn down again afterward, leading the Greenpointer to wait until the developer can guarantee they can stay posted.

“We’re not going to go through the process of hanging them and having them tear down them 10 more times like we did for 26 West, while they play dumb. I’ve spent hundreds of hours organizing here,” he said.

Levin told Brooklyn Paper that he will ask Dushinsky to allow the posters to hang at all of their developments.

“I will follow up with them and encourage them to allow them to hang at all their buildings,” the pol said.

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