Williamsburg-Greenpoint tenants and community leaders will rally in front of buildings in the epicenter of gentrification in the neighborhood to protest a shocking pattern of arson fires, unauthorized demolitions, and Building Department vacate orders that help voracious landlords remove the remaining residents ot buildings they Want to complete emptying in order to bring in much higher paying young émigrés from Manhattan.
The rally will take place TONiGHT (Wednesday, July 25th) at 6pm in front of 193 Bedford Avenue, between North 6th and North 7th Streets in the Northside of Wiliìamsburg, one of the sites where illegal landlord demolition went unpunished and indeed was reinforced by a Building Department vacate order that got the last two tenants out. MAD is a coalition that includes Southside United (Los Sures), St. Nick’s Alliance in East Williamsburg-Greenpoint, Peop|e’s Firehouse and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) in the Northside, North Brooklyn Development Corporation in Greenpoint, Churches United for Fair Housing (“CUFFH”) and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A (Brooklyn A).
Domingos Fialho, a former tenant at 193 Bedford, who has a Court case pending to have his apartment reconstructed so that he can return to it, described what happened to him and his family:
“After the landlord got most of the tenants out of the building, leaving only me, my wife and our baby, plus our neighbor, Tranquilina, the new landlord, Isaac Jacob, started demolition and construction in the building creating horrendous conditions which I believe caused my wife’s current hospitalization and semicoma. With the help of the People’s Firehouse, we began a Housing Court action to require the landlord to remove the conditions that were violations of the Housing Maintenance Code. When the Court ordered the City to inspect to confirm the existence of violations, the landlord met with and went in with them, and instead of ordering the landlord to correct the conditions, the inspectors issued a vacate order, requiring us to move out of the building because of the supposed danger of the building collapsing, but the vacate order indicated that the business on the ground floor did not have to move. Total corruption causing massive suffering for me and my baby, and Tranquilina as we have had to put our stuff in storage and find temporary housing far away even though I work in the neighborhood near the building. PS My wife is near death in the hospital, and the landlord is gut rehabbing the building in order to rent out the apartments for much, much more than was allowed by the Rent Stabilization Law while we were there! So who got punished? We –not him! But we are continuing our fight, despite the Housing Court’s indifference, we won’t give up, and with the help of Brooklyn Legal Services and People’s Firehouse – will returnll”
Other buildings Where tenants were forced out or are in danger include 202 Franklin Street in Greenpoint, 172 North Sth St and167 Bedford Ave in the Northside, 79 South 6th in the Southside, and 684 Flushing Ave in South Williamsburg at the Bedford Stuyvesant border. Summaries of these stories below:
202 Franklin St: A small fire in this 6 apartment building near the East River waterfront in Greenpoint, led to a vacate order that required the bui|ding’s long term tenants,
about half of whom were Latinos, out ofthe building. The Waterfront was re-zoned in 2005 and is being developed for luxury housing on the Waterfront and the surrounding neighborhood, inctuding next door to this building. The landlord and two subsequent purchasers of this building declined to repair the building for almost 4 years, and at one point offered each of the tenants $125,000 each not to return. The tenants declined the offer, and fought in Court until the landlords were required to fix the building and allow them to return, which they did about a year ago, and where they are currently fighting to get the current landlord to provide normal maintenance to the building.
172 North 8th St: The new iandlord, Jamal Alokasheh, did demoiition work in the basement without a permit in this 8 family house near the epioenter of gentrifioation in Williamsburg’s Northside. The demolition resulted in an immediate vacate order that required the mostly low income, Polish immigrant tenants to have to find temporary housing. After over a year of fighting in Housing Court to get the landlord to correct the conditions so that the vacate order would be lifted, and not until he was threatened with contempt of court, did Alokasheh do the minimal
amount of Work needed to lift the vacate. The tenants moved back in, despite the landlord’s failure to restore other basic services. However, a new vacate order was issued the next day, after it was discovered that additional demolition work had been done without permit in the basement again. Witnesses later testified that they saw the landlord’s workers enter the building and then leave with a barrel of earth. After an extended trial, the Court appointed Rich Mazur, head of the community non profit North Brooklyn Development Corporation, as
“7A Administrator,” and after significant press attention to the case, the City agreed to invest $500,000 to fix up the building so that the tenants can, after 2 years, finally return to their building before this coming Christmas. However, the landlord, with a team of new lawyers, has returned to Court seeking an order to stop the City and Administrator from completing the work. Shockingiy, the Court has recently granted the landlord a temporary stay against the City and Administrator.
167 Bedford Ave: Jamai Alokasheh, the same landlord as at 172 North 8th Street around the corner, recently acquired this building, and began the same tactics, including demolishing the apartment when the subtenant, whose status he questioned, was away from the apartment. That tenant and the other mostly Polish tenants in the building, also with the assistance of People’s Firehouse and Brooklyn Legal Services, have begun an HP action to require the landlord to correct the rapidly declining conditions in the building.
79 South 6th St: The new landlord in this 4 apartment, brownstone type building in the rapidly gentrifying Southside of Williamsburg, got three of the four tenants in the buiiding
out, leaving Elba Rodriguez, a 79 year old widow, who had lived in the building for over 40 years, as the lone remaining tenant. She had been paying $200/month, as a Rent Controlled tenant in the building. Low and behold, a fire “happened” in the vacant apartment above hers and a vacate order issued about a year ago. Fire Department records indicate that the fire was set by incendiary setting of a pile of trash on the floor in that apartment. Since then she has slept on a couch in a friend’s living room nearby her long time former residence, awaiting its repair and her return. When she observed that the landlord had almost completed the renovation of her apartment and the building, she triedI to return to her apartment, but was rebuffed by the landlord, who refused to give her a key. However, the landlord appeared to have rented her apartment to a bunch of young people, despite the fact that the vacate order remained in effect. With the help of Los Sures and Councilmember Reyna, they got the police to enforce the vacate order and put the new tenants out of the apartment.
However, those new tenants moved back in almost immediately and the vacate order was lifted shortly thereafter. Rodriguez1 with the help of Los Sures and Brooklyn Legal Services, brought an illegal lockout case, in which the Court forced a substantial money settlement, despite Elba’s strong preference to return to her long term home. She continues to try to find an affordable nearby apartment while temporarily living in a local hotel.
684 Flushing Ave: This 16 unit single room occupancy building had been illegally Converted from an 8 unit apartment house. The landlord, identified by the City Comptroller as one
of the 25 Worst landlords in the City, was completely absentee, providing virtually no services to the tenants, despite collecting significant rents from agencies supporting these tenants. Finally, the tenants organized, with the help of St. Nicks Alliance and Brooklyn Legal Services, and began a rent strike. The bank, which held a mortgage on the building began a foreclosure action, a receiver was appointed and the landlord was barred from the building, and some services were restored. However, when the Supreme Court granted the bank’s motion for a sale of the building, the landlord’s agent, in violation ofthe Court’s order, entered with a Building Department inspector, and a vacate order issued. Just as the tenants were about to be forced out of the building, the local Councilmember intervened, got HPD –which had been working with the building for over two years and was fully aware of the building’s conditions that did not warrant the vacate order– to halt the vacate for long enough for the tenants to apply to the Supreme Court to stop the vacate. After a number of postponements, the Building Department acknowledged that, at worst, only two tenants would have to move from their back apartments to vacant apartment in the front of the building. However the landlord settled with the bank and may shortly be able to return to the building, although the Supreme Court continued the Order barring the landlord’s entry into the building for the moment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THESE CASES, CONTACT:
Marty Needelman, Esq., (Eìrookiyn A,) 718-487-2322 or
Barbara Schliff or Debbie Medina. Los Sures, 718-387-3600;
Rolando Guzman, St. Nicks Alliance, 718-3882233 x 123
Rich Mazur (North Bklyn.Dev.Corp.), 718-389-9044 or 510-888-4757;
Kurt Hill (People’s Firehouse), 718-388-4696 x 304.