Tenants petition to join lawsuit against infamous Dean Street landlords

dean street
Tenants of 1214 Dean St., and landlord Gennaro Brooks-Church.
Photo by Ben Verde

The former tenants of a Dean Street building are looking to be included in the city’s lawsuit against their former landlords, saying the property owners mounted an illegal eviction and harassment campaign against them over the summer. 

“We want to make sure that the former tenants of 1214 Dean [Street] are added as plaintiffs so that they can get both the compensation and the restitution that they deserve, based on the harm that was done this past summer,” said Michael Higgins Jr. of the Brooklyn Movement Center, which is assisting the tenants along with TakeRoot Justice.

The city announced a lawsuit against the notorious landlords, Loretta Gendville and Gennaro Brooks-Church, in November for allegedly violating the New York City Unlawful Eviction Law and the city’s construction code. 

The tenants — who include Angie Gonzalez and a woman who asked to be identified only as Jamila — say the property owners continuously harassed them over the summer, culminating in an attempt by the landlords to move into the house while the tenants were still living there on July 11, including forcibly removing some of their belongings. 

While the tenants had agreed to move out by a certain date, the landlords allegedly tried to kick them out before that time, without any legal eviction paperwork, and amid a statewide moratorium on evictions. 

The move drew dozens of tenant activists, who showed up at the house and camped out on its stoop for days, halting the eviction process.

Jamila was recovering from brain surgery at the time of the eviction attempt, and said during a press conference outside New York County Supreme Court that the ordeal had added a thick layer of stress to an already difficult year, which saw her receive a brain cancer diagnosis amid the pandemic. 

It also added a financial burden, for she had to find a new apartment quickly and pay for movers to move her belongings, not being able to move them herself. 

“I should not be here today,” she said. “I should be at home recovering and preparing for chemotherapy. This unlawful eviction has inflicted further damages in me, so I need to be here in order to pursue restitution for what I have lost in this process.” 

Gonzalez urged the city to add them to the list of victims of the landlord’s misbehavior, saying the move would give them some semblance of justice. 

“This is our story as well as New York’s story,” she said. “More than anything I want us to be able to move forward from this situation feeling that justice was served…It’s been incredibly difficult to recover from.”

A spokesman for City Hall said the city will review the tenants’ petition once they receive it. Brooks-Church and Gendville have previously declined to comment on the lawsuit.