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St. Nick’s Alliance filed a lawsuit on behalf of 300 Nassau Ave. residents

Greenpointers on the street after they say landlord killed the heat

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They can’t stand it. They know he planned it. They’re telling us all it’s a sabotage.

Tenants of a rent-stabilized building in Greenpoint say their landlord sabotaged their heat and electricity to put them out on the street — and now they’re trying to set it straight, this Watergate. In court.

The renters of 300 Nassau Ave. were forced to move out of their apartments in mid-December after someone smashed the building’s thermostat, electrical system, and boilers with an ax, prompting the city to padlock the building. The now-homeless former occupants say the building’s owner Aaron Israel masterminded the destruction to make way for new, higher-paying renters.

“He is harassing all of the tenants so that they move out,” tenant Catalina Hidalgo said of Israel, who owns the building along with his brother Joel. “They want all the rent-stabilized tenants out of here so they can raise the rent.”

Hidalgo is a lifelong Greenpoint resident and has lived in the building since 2004, she said. In early 2013, the Israels offered her $50,000 to give up her two-bedroom apartment, for which she says she pays $754, she said.

Fifty grand might sound like a lot, but consider that the average two-bedroom in Greenpoint rents for $2,676, according to MNS Real Estate. At that rate, the landlords could make their money back in just more than one year-and-a-half if they claimed to renovate the apartment enough to break through the rent stabilization ceiling. Or, if they managed to remove everybody, the Israels could raze the three-story row house and build an up-to-five story building in its place

The problems started last spring when her downstairs neighbors moved out and the Israels began renovating their unit, according to Hidalgo. Workers knocked out a supporting beam in the building, which caused Hidalgo’s bathroom to sag dangerously, she said. Hidalgo, who works in construction, also suspected that the renovation work was spewing asbestos into the air and filed a complaint with the city, which found evidence of the toxic particles and ordered the Israels to stop work. The landlords later violated that order and the city cited them again.

The city also half-kicked Hidalgo out in November, telling her that she and her twin toddlers could continue to live in the apartment, but they could not use the bathroom. She and her children resorted to peeing and pooping in buckets, she said.

“It was horrible,” she said.

Then, on Dec. 15, someone broke into the building under cover of night and disabled the heat and electricity, the tenants said.

The angry renters, with the help of the activist group Saint Nick’s Alliance, are suing the Israels to get the utilities fixed, claiming that the brothers are intentionally monkey-wrenching their own property. It is a common tactic, according to the organization.

“Landlords in these cases have let the building completely fall apart or have taken to damaging it themselves,” said tenant attorney Adam Meyers. “By the time they get the repairs done, the tenants have moved on. We don’t want that to happen in this case.”

The booted boarders are currently living either with friends or in homeless shelters, they said.

Housing Court Judge Marina Cora Mundy denied the tenants’ request to immediately appoint an administrator to repair the building, and instead ordered the landlords to allow the city in to inspect the building on Jan. 15.

The Israels are accused of taking similar measures at their other Brooklyn real estate, including at three buildings in Bushwick, said Meyers.

Aaron and Joel Israel did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Homey from Crooklyn says:
Tjb
Jan. 10, 2014, 9:20 am
hb from bklyn says:
While not condoning the alleged actions of the building owners, one must also understand that the rent stabilization laws have created difficult situations for small property owners. They, in effect, must operate apartments, and even whole buildings, at a significant LOSS, yet, oftentimes, are not receiving enough tax credit/subsidy to provide decent housing. In essence, many private landlords are expected to provide free housing, and in some cases are losing money. Now, that would be fair if they were involved in nonprofit or subsidized or government ventures. But they are not. They are small businessmen trying to make a living, like everyone else. In addition, the mandate to maintain tenants who can ill afford anything near what it costs in taxes, utilities and repairs leads to extravagantly high rents for other tenants. Who in NYC has NOT paid thousands for the exact apartment for which a neighbor pays a few hundred. Who in NYC has had to live with multiple roommates just to get by and shares a two or three bedroom apartment in shabby condition and pays rent that is beyond reasonable for the housing they are provided.
Again, terrible actions alleged here are NOT the answer. But they speak of a problem that is not being addressed in a way that requires urgent, affordable, and realistic action.
Jan. 10, 2014, 10:59 am
Tom from Williamsburg says:
hb:

Not sure what your point is. If these landlords can't abide by their moral and legal responsibility to maintain the buildings, they should sell them to someone who can. End of story.
Jan. 10, 2014, 2:32 pm
me from Greenpoint says:
Agreed with Tom. Long-time homeowners have already paid off their mortgages and are not operating at a loss. It's recent buyers who are having that problem, and they're having that problem because they paid too much for the building. That is their mistake, not the tenants'.

Far too many investors, these "small businessmen" of whom hb speaks, seem to believe that propery values only go up and that their property investments are somehow guaranteed. Wrong. Sometimes property is overpriced, and you can lose money on property if you pay too much for it. Get that through your heads.
Jan. 10, 2014, 3:20 pm
BK Resident from South Slope says:
Obviously these are assumptions (mainly the rent of the other 5 units), but for the hell of it...

6 units at $750 a month is $54k a year. Real estate taxes are $14k per year. The property has a $200k mortgage on it from 1999, so that is probably $16k a year. That leaves $23k left over.

Let's assume it costs $16k to maintain and operate the building, that leaves $7k a year left over. If they put 20% down you are talking about a cash on cash of 14%. Add in the fact that the building is probably worth double what they paid for it now.

The rules are the same now as when they bought the building, they should have known what they were getting into.
Jan. 10, 2014, 3:53 pm
BLUE_Ray from Brooklyn says:
Rent Control laws are obsolete and in favor of tenants! LL are putting their skin in and are getting screwed for it...there should be a fair mix of controled and market rate aps in every building.
Jan. 10, 2014, 6:54 pm
jennifer from williamburg brooklyn says:
you need to keep fight and the landlord need to fix everything he cant say no and keep taking he to court and get what you need take to tommy torres he can try to help out he on facebook
Jan. 10, 2014, 7:16 pm
Jay from NYC says:
These landlords might want to re-think this kind of thing, if in fact they are behind these alleged acts, two landlords in the past week were murdered. One was pretty much decapitated. There is a percentage of people who will take the law into their own hands and do terrible things that should not be done.
A few other things, online city property records indicate that the current owners acquired the building in 1995 and that the mortgage was paid off in 2006. The building also apparently does not seem to have a valid certificate of occupancy.
Finally, small property owners don't really own that many rent stabilized apartments, so hb that is the first thing in your post you have wrong. Second, most rent stabilized apartments are in effect already at the market rate, they tend to be in less desirable areas in old buildings, (Many in fact are tenements, which were outright slums back in the day) basically a landlord could try and charge market rate, but he/she would not get it in most cases.
HB next point, is that any landlord worth his salt will show a loss on his taxes, in fact most buildings do exactly that, but that does not mean they are actually losing money, its called accounting, in fact landlords in NYC make more than pretty much anywhere else in the country. Having to deal with rent stabilization is just the price of doing business in the highest rent market in the country for what is in many cases among the crummiest rental properties in the country that would be vacant anywhere else.
Rent stabilization does NOT mean higher rents for other tenants and that is also simply false. If a landlord tries that, the apartment won't rent, and they will lose money.
Finally fully one third of the households in this city make less than 30,000 dollars a year. People making 60,000 qualify for public housing. So either we have rent stabilization, or people have to leave the city until wages rise high enough so that people can pay for a market rate apartment. But guess what, if the population of the city drops, the real estate industry and property values will crater. It happened in the 80s if you were here and remember it hb. Pick your poison.
Jan. 10, 2014, 8:01 pm
Sandy from Crown Heights says:
I agree with hb. Tom from Williamsburg posted if Landlords can't handle the "responsibility to maintain the buildings, they should sell them to someone who can." Obviously Tom was NEVER a Landlord. I was about a decade ago for about 3 years. I sold the building because I was subsidizing my tenants and the housing laws are extremely tenant-friendly. A tenant can not pay rent for 6 months but a Landlord can not file for back rent and eviction simultaneously but the mortgage must still be paid. And, for other posters that think, "oh the building is paid off, so the Landlord is making money," so what? Stabilized rents don't even begin to cover that apartment's expenses.

Jay from NYC said "small property owners don't really own that many rent stabilized apartments ... " There a more small property owners of rent stabilized apartments than you would think. Also, a Landlord has to make A LOT of capital improvements to make an apartment market rate. S/he can't just can't charge market rate because a rent stabilized apartment becomes empty. The "stabilization" stays with the apartment and not the tenant.

I do agree that there has to be some sort of subsidy so anyone other than a rich person can live in the boroughs where they work. However, the subsidy SHOULDN'T be at the expense of the Landlord. Anyone who provides a service gets paid AND is allowed to profit. Landlords should be no different.
Jan. 11, 2014, 2:18 am
JAY from NYC says:
Sandy, what you are talking about is the classic business problem of risk vs. reward, and that higher risk requires higher compensation.
In New York, yes the laws in some cases are more friendly to tenants, in that they require to actually prove rent is owed by providing a rent break down, serving proper notice on a tenant, that tenants can bring HP actions against landlords who do not maintain the property and that tenants are protected with the doctrine of latches, and that landlords have to provide heat. If landlords could get away with not providing heat they would, and despite the law, there are a lot of landlord who don't provide heat in accordance with the law, and usually nothing happens to them for that. I read about you complaining about tenants, but there are scads of terrible landlords who belong in jail and all I see you saying is basically being an apologist for those landlords?
There is pretty much no place else in the country where you can rent out a bug infested rat hole with mold on the ceilings, a stove that does not work, and constant heat problems for 1200 bucks a month. But in NYC not only can you get away with that, the vacancy rate is crazy low.
Most investment advisers will tell you that in most places in the country the rental property is going to be vacant around 25% of the time. IN some places that rate is as high as 40%. In NYC its around 8%.
In other words the market conditions in NYC create a risk-reward equation is actually heavily in favor of the landlord.
In many places in the country that aforementioned bug infested rathole with busted stove etc property would be torn down at owner expense.
Here in NYC public policy dictates that we attempt to keep such substandard housing inhabited for as long as possible, and that is where the majority of rent stabilized apartments are.
In addition, in most places in the country, if landlords tried to do the things the landlords are allegedly doing in this article, they would be in jail. For a landlord to get locked up in NYC however, is a very rare thing. So the downside in NYC if you are a landlord is that you can't just toss people out of the street, the upside is you get to collect the highest rents in the county with the lowest vacancy rates as well.
If you can't make money doing that, then you should not be in the landlord tenant business, or maybe any business. Small landlords are no different than any other small business and many struggling to deal with its accounts receivable. If you are not on top of those and don't have adequate capital on hand, and the people who owe you money are not paying, you are going to have a problem, but just like any other business you can claim a loss on your taxes and get money back, so if you are really losing money as a landlord in NYC you just don't understand business and got in over your head.
A number of small landlord buy a building to live in it and it comes with a tenant or two that they intend to use to pay the building mortgage. That is about the stupidest thing you can do.
BASIC FINANCE here, IF you can NOT pay the mortgage on your own, as a small landlord, and are depending on the tenant to make the mortgage, then you are over-leveraged with debt and CAN NOT afford to do this!!!!
Its not different that any other situation where a person takes on too much debt and then can't make payments.
IF a small landlord does that, then they have no one to blame but themselves for taking on that amount of debt, and any decent investment adviser will tell you this, (IF they don't have a conflict of interest anyway) and advise not to place yourself in such a situation.
To drill down on the issue of a rent stabilized tenant, the only real difference between a RS tenant and market rate tenant for a small landlord is that the landlord is REQUIRED to renew the lease and can only raise the rent a certain bit per year. Thats it.
Other than that, they are not too different form market rate tenants, in that you have the same responsibility as a landlord in either case.
IN either situation if a tenant is not paying you still have to go through the legal process to evict them, and I think Sandy, based on your comments, that is what you really have a problem with and that you want to be able to change tenants like socks, and the law is not ever gong to allow that.
One other point I want to comment on you mentioned subsidy, well, what you are arguing is that basically you want to be subsidized. What you fail to recognize is that landlords already are subsidized, which costs the rest of us a ton in taxes.
There are TONS of programs and breaks for landlords, and maybe that you don't seem to be aware of them, and that is why things did not go so well for you as a landlord.
In addition, when you bought the building, I assume (perhaps incorrectly?) that you knew that you were taking on the responsibility of landlord and that you paid to do it, and that you knew of the rent stabilized tenants? Did you think you could just kick them out, throw some cheap paint on the walls, and do some garbage reno job and jack up rents, in violation of the law?.
So did anyone make you buy the property in question? And why should you get a subsidy when you have the best rental market in the country and especially if you are using a tenant to pay your mortgage? Oh and are you deducting that mortgage payment from your own taxes on top of that too?!!?
Finally, you are correct that anyone who provides a service gets paid and is allowed to profit, but you only profit if you are smart about business. You are entitled to get paid, but that is not the same thing as profit, and you actually are NOT entitled to profit, you MUST earn profit. Simply buying a building and charging rent is NOT earning it.
The fact is something like 90% of all new business fail within their first five years. Why do you think landlords should be different form the rest of business? You seem to think that if you just hold out your hand you get money, and that someone owes you something, and that is not how business works.
So again, you can either have RS apartments, or you can have X% of the population of the city leaves NYC because they can't afford market rate, and then property values will be underwater and rents will drop like crazy and no one makes money, but you can't have it both ways. Like I said before chose your Poison.
Jan. 11, 2014, 12:19 pm
Leva from 11222 says:
I pray that the north brooklyn real estate bubble will pop. These landlords need to realize that the culture of greed that they are operating under isn't sustainable in the Rent stabilized market , especially when they've overpaid for their properties. These types of slumlords want an unrealisticly fast return, because they see their fellow Haredim being able to do it with such ease. Setting up shell LLCs and working schemes with loans and foreclosure scams. It will catch up to many of them. People need to be very vigilant. We need to look out for our neighbors, and educate people about their rights as renters before all of north Brooklyn is sold off to buyers looking to exploit all the housing stock to only wealthier people. Many working, middle class Brooklynites need this housing, and Brooklyn needs to retain a real working middle class people.
Jan. 11, 2014, 3:06 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
Rent control is why nobody but these kinds of characters is willing to buy buildings with rent-controlled apartments. Any sane potential home owner will steer clear of the very mention of rent control.
Jan. 11, 2014, 3:24 pm
JJ from Williamsburg says:
My parents and my uncles all own rent controlled or stabilized apartment buildings in Williamsburg for almost 30 years. all see a profit at the end of each year. In fact my Dad bought the rent controlled building he grew up in from his old landlord for a fair price., paid it off long ago,and now makes a decent income from it in his retirement. Those days are over inNorth Brooklyn because of the boom. The difference between my family and investment owners is that our families have them as a way to supplement income, and owner investors are doing this as their sole profession. The stakes are higher for the newer owners to start dirty dealing because they've purchased at overly inflated prices , and since they don't live in the properties themselves it's easier to toss morals and obligations out the window. (The mile wide streak of racism among these owners compounds things even further , as their racist and classist agendas helps theme justify behaving this way because they think they are cleaning up the block) of course they aren't in any way, but the cash creates the illusion of some type of success. It's getting scary out there again now. I hear more and more of these stories of slumlords doing dastardly things to get rid of tenants, like was happening in the 80s. I doubt a crisis of conscience is going to stop these landlords. Hopefully better governmental oversight and more legal repercussions for the bad apples will set an example for all of them to behave professionally.
Jan. 11, 2014, 3:59 pm
Native brooklynite from Flatbush says:
Jay - you have no concept of finance. Buying an apartment building is an investment. You can make a profit and obviously you use the rental income to pay the mortgage.

These landlords are obviously bad guys but they are the exception.

It's true that ny is too expensive and we need government to create more incentives to create affordable housing. Rent stabilization is not based on income and keeps millions of apartments off the market. This keeps rents higher for market rate apartments than they would be without rent stabilization.

Also vacancy is about 3 pct in NYC and rarely more than 10 pct in any major market in the country.
Jan. 12, 2014, 7:40 pm
Barbara K alski from Greenpoint says:
How is it that the government dictates how much you can raise a rent like 3 or 4% a year, they raise Real estate taxes 18%!!!! How is that fair??? Its ridicoulous how these laws work because a tenant can live a few months without paying rent and its OK, But if you dont pay the mortgage you lose the house!!! Something needs to be done about this. These ląws are sooo old, everything changes except for these dumb laws. The city should provide housing for the poor NOT lay these laws upon landlords to support their tenants. My son has $150,000 student loan and i cant help him pay because i have tenants that pay $700 for 3 bedrooms!!! Thats fair???
Jan. 13, 2014, 3:44 pm
hb from bklyn says:
....there's a story here that needs telling...and there are two sides to it...
Jan. 14, 2014, 10:09 am
Joe from Brooklyn says:
Followed up on this story today for PIX 11 News. The landlords literally hid in the building for hours once inspectors from the DOB and HPD left. Once they came out I had to chase them down the street and still got no answers. I hope all of you will watch the story tonight at 10 so you can judge for yourself about what kind of owners these men are.
Jan. 15, 2014, 4:06 pm
Chris from Greenpoint says:
There's Food Stamps for food why not Housing Vouchers for housing? A voucher program for housing could level the field so that all of society support those who need subsidized rent. Tenants should require the burden of proof of need.
Jan. 27, 2014, 9:25 am
Luis R, from Bushwick says:
At The End Of The Day Even If The Property Does Not Make A Profiy And Has No Loss, The Property Itself Is Collateral For Banking Purposes, And If The City Does Not Stop These Two Crook;s And criminal's From Proceeding Further They Will Eventually Kill A Tenant....They Actually Need To Be Paraded here In Bushwick And Tarred And feathered....Period....
March 19, 2014, 4:51 pm
Another Lady from Bushwick says:
"However, the subsidy SHOULDN'T be at the expense of the Landlord. Anyone who provides a service gets paid AND is allowed to profit. Landlords should be no different."

Most landlords buy stabilized buildings with the intentions of kicking every single stabilized tenant out. Harassment proceeds. If landlords actually registered properly with DHCR, they would see a better reflection of tax-abatements for providing stabilization. If they made repairs and up grades, they could apply MCI's and increase the rents, along with yearly-or-by-yearly lease increases.

Landlords also play an illegal game of flipping, by purchasing the property under an LLC with no names on the tittle, a po box as a business address (which is illegal), then open another LLC to resale the property to (which is illegal if not owned for more than 1 year) for a lower sales price, then the first LLC claims the original purchase price as a loss on their taxes.
April 18, 2014, 1:51 pm

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