Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A and Equality for Flatbush Protect Tenants from Abusive Landlords, Reported by The Village Voice

Posted on January 25, 2018

Eviction by Water Torture

Originally Posted by The Village Voice on January 18, 2018
Written by Steven Wishnia

On the night of January 7, as temperatures around the city plummeted to 6 degrees, a pipe burst in the hallway at 1231 Broadway in Brooklyn, cutting off the cold water supply to Gabriel Martinez’s second-floor apartment. Nine days later, Martinez stood on the sidewalk in front of the Bushwick building, wearing a heavy sweatshirt and a gray-striped black wool hat, and said it still hasn’t been fixed. The problem, he and other residents said, are the building’s absentee landlords, who they and tenant advocates charge are refusing to make repairs in hopes of driving out low-income tenants in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood. A four-story, six-apartment building with a furniture store on the ground floor and tan paint flaking off the Corinthian columns that flank its upstairs windows, 1231 Broadway has had chronic problems with heat and hot water for years, tenants say. “¡Tanto frio!” — it’s so cold — said Veronica Damian, 35, a thick black parka protecting her due-in-a-week baby. There’s no heat, her husband, Julio Merino, 34, said in Spanish through an interpreter, and the hot water is a weak trickle. The couple, immigrants from Mexico’s Oaxaca state, have lived in the building since 2009 and pay $1,550 a month for a three-room apartment. When they’ve complained about the lack of heat, they said, their landlords have threatened to call immigration. On January 13, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development issued three class C violations, which are deemed “immediately hazardous” and are supposed to be corrected within 24 hours, for the lack of cold water in Martinez’s apartment — one each for the kitchen sink, toilet, and bathtub. HPD gave the owners until January 29 to certify they’d fixed the problem. The tenants’ lawyers, from Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, would rather have HPD fix the pipes and the heating system through its Emergency Repair Program, for which the landlord would be billed — doing so is “infinitely faster” than trying to get a Housing Court judge to order repairs, explains the organization’s deputy program director, Gregory Louis. The problem is not one of a marginal owner or an old-school slumlord trying to milk a few more winters out of an aging boiler, says Shekar Krishnan, director of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A’s Preserving Affordable Housing Program. “It’s absolutely a pattern of harassment,” he says. “This is a tactic of forcing tenants out and replacing them with others who can pay higher rents.” Advocates want to see a tougher crackdown. “It’s not about waiting for the city of New York to do its job,” Imani Henry of Equality for Flatbush told the Tuesday rally. “We have to force de Blasio to arrest these landlords.”

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