A group of tenants at one of the borough’s biggest private apartment complexes has teamed up with the its locked-out union to sue their landlord — who the residents claim stiffed them on a promise to renovate a community center.
Lawyers for the locked-out 32BJ Service Employees International Union are representing the Flatbush Gardens Tenants Association for free in a lawsuit that says landlord David Bistricer, of Renaissance Equity Holdings, reneged on a deal to refurbish a community center in the basement of a building on Brooklyn Avenue between Foster Avenue and Farragut Road.
The residents claim the $125,000-renovation was the lynchpin to Bistricer’s failed bid to buy the Starrett City houses in East New York.
“We’ve never stopped asking about when they would fulfill their agreement,” said Martin Cornish, vice president of the tenants association. “They’ve completely shut down to us. If we asked for a meeting, it takes weeks.”
But Bistricer’s lawyer derided the suit as a union tactic to hurt his client, whom he said upheld his end of the deal.
“This action has absolutely no merit,” said Robert Wolf, Bistricer’s attorney. “Flatbush Gardens has extensively renovated space for the tenant’s association and [tenants association President Marietta] Small in particular.”
But tenants say the room they currently use was there before they signed the contract and that Bistricer only covered the labor in their efforts to spruce up the space.
“It’s completely untrue. We have a small meeting space — it’s maybe a quarter of the space that they committed to in the contract,” said Cornish.
The group says it is gearing up for more litigation over repairs at the property, which has over 3,600 violations with the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“There are several different lawsuits that are probably coming in the next few months,” said Cornish, though he declined to comment further.
The union is covering legal fees for the tenants in all the suits, Cornish said.
The suit is the latest bad news for Bistricer, who is currently contesting 16 citations — totaling $51,000 in fines — with the Federal Government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for allegedly allowing the maintenance crew to work in raw sewage and deal with asbestos and lead paint without the proper safety equipment.
Bistricer bought the 2,500 unit housing complex — which is bounded by Foster, Brooklyn, Newkirk and Nostrand avenues — for $140 million in 2005.