Following a steady rise in cases of corrupt landlords trying to force out low-income and rent stabilized tenants in North Brooklyn, State Senator Martin Dilan and State Assemblyman Joe Lentol have introduced new legislation to criminalize such actions.
“The sheer malice of intentionally sabotaging a rent regulated apartment is criminal and those who would do it need to be treated as such,” said Dilan. “Taking an axe to the electric and hot water of a complex, intentionally setting fires and compromising load-bearing walls, puts lives at risk.”
The practices Dilan lists have become a common tactic for landlords to boot long-term residents who live in rent stabilized and controlled buildings. Upon evicting the tenants, the landlords can rent them at astronomically higher, market-rate prices.
The Sabotage of Rent Regulated Accommodations legislation will seek to put an end to those practices. Local electeds are hoping to categorize it as a Class D felony, which would mean anywhere between two to seven years behind bars for landlords who are convicted of such misconduct.
Landlords have increasingly been engaging in such practices in North Brooklyn to take advantage of the fact that Williamsburg and Greenpoint have seen some of the highest rates of new real estate project developments and rents throughout the city, according to studies.
Landlords can deregulate rent-controlled apartments after the prices per unit exceed $2,500 or if the tenants have cleared out of the apartments, and landlords most frequently tend to exploit the latter.
“With the ever-increasing cost of real estate in New York City, landlords have chosen to take unscrupulous approaches to making profit – many times at the expense of tenants,” said Lentol. “The ongoing sabotage of apartments to force rent regulated tenants out, which allows them to exponentially increase rents, is not only immoral but it should be illegal.”
The introduction of the legislation follows two prominent cases of such activities taking place in North Brooklyn. In both instances, the buildings are owned by Joel Israel.
For the building in Bushwick, on Linden Street, residents allege that on the pretext of making repairs, Israel, ripped out the flooring in one of the apartments, and failed to address the problem for over nine months.
Similarly with a building on Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, residents have accused Israel of ruining the building’s electrical system and attempting to destroy the thermostat.
Both cases are currently pending in housing court – an often long drawn process with limited recriminations against landlords. Local electeds are now hoping that firm legislation might strengthen the case for tenants and deter landlords in the future.