Friday, August 22, 2008

More on the East Village harassment story

Following up on the post yesterday on the landlord accused of harassing tenants...Curbed has more here.

Meanwhile, Jill from Blah Blog Blah left a comment regarding all this. She has firsthand experience:

I live in one of these buildings. We have had almost half the apartments vacated in the past few months. And once the tenants leave, we never know where they went or what happened to them. We've organized a tenants group but the people who leave are the ones who didn't join the group. Some that we did know left because they decided it just wasn't worth the living conditions. One had a new baby and were so freaked out by the construction, so off to Brooklyn they went.

Who moved in? Not one of the new tenants is over 25. They are renting 400 square foot renovated apartments (3 rooms--2 bedrooms and a common area with a kitchen and very small space for maybe a chair) for $3200 on a third floor walk up in a very filthy building. Probably a little less for the upper floors. Two to an apartment--$1500 to live in the East Village is probably the going rate, crazy. Dozens of bars but nowhere to buy a fresh piece of fish. Who needs food when you can live on alcohol?

The problem is that the landlord operates just on this side of the law. The super was heard recently telling one of the rent stabilized tenants that he doubted if he could adequately fix whatever the problem is "because you know what the landlord wants to do to you folks." They make a repair, but they make it purposely bad. They turn off the hot water for half a day so that by the time the complaint is registered, it has been "fixed." They don't properly register with DOB for permits and then "fix" the paperwork months later, and DOB could give a shit. There are absolutely no penalties or oversight. They take months to renovate an apartment and clean the hallway rarely, so there is dust everywhere, it comes up through the floorboards and infests every crook--I'm still cleaning out shoes that I hadn't worn that are coated in plaster dust from 6 months ago.

But is a dirty hallway enough to go to court? The workers start before legal hours and end after they are allowed to be here, making a lot of noise. Does DOB do anything? No, they are worried about cranes falling, if that.

They evicted my neighbor out and literally threw his stuff down down 6 flights of stairs. Kicked it down. Then he won in court and got to come back.

I could go on about the small things they have done, they all add up, but none individually are enough to make a case that sounds really compelling.


Anonymous said...

I am SO happy that you (and Jeremiah) are blogging about this. Westbrook/PVE is my landlord as well. What has been going on in the past few years is frightening.

To reiterate/add to what Jill said: first we lost at least a third of our tenants. I know one who had an illegal sublet/eviction, but another three vacated apartments were an elderly lady and her daughter; a family of 4-5 people, the eldest of whom had been in the neighborhood since the 1960s; and an older (65+) gentleman. These were rent control buyout situations, but small-time buyouts won't go far (especially when a full third is taken by the IRS). Gut demolition (at first, without permits) began and severe damage took place in existing resident apartments. Common areas a disaster zone. Building front door propped open all day by construction workers. Intercom broken, front door lock often broken and not fixed promptly. New tenants who all appear to be (or are; I have no desire to get to know these door-slamming drunkards) college students.

The supers have it bad too. They are rotated between buildings, I suppose both as a tactic for us to see ours less and maintain friendly relations, and also to pay fewer supers. I used to see mine almost every day. Now, maybe once a month at most.

The main management company representative is a thug. Read more about him and Shaoul's deceptive practices here:

Thanks again for spreading the word, EV!

Anonymous said...

Oh and Jill: Howdy neighbor! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ivv,

Thanks for leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Oops! Sory.....I left the same comment I deleted one ...

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say DOB does absolutely nothing. There's a stop work order on the door of one of the Magnum/PVE buildings.

Anonymous said...

Don't the people who are moving in deserve a place to live too. Are they less human than the people moving out?

Anonymous said...

I encourage anyone in these buildings to definitely sue the landlords. Actually, banding together with a bunch of tenants and hiring a common lawyer would be the most economical way to do it. A couple points:

1. Landlords can't evict you without a court order. If they move stuff out of your apartment or change your locks, they are screwed if you go to court.

2. Everyone rental agreement comes with what is called a warrant of habitability, including the covenant of quiet enjoyment, which basically means the landlord has to provide you with a quiet, average quality apartment (it's kind of like a lemon law). So, after hours construction without a variance, dust permeating apartments, and excessive noise/vibration violate the warrant of habitability and you can definitely go to court and win at least a decent portion of your rent back. If the landlord is doing things like intentionally not fixing stuff, you can get punitive damages, and if you hire a lawyer, once the case gets set for trial and discovery starts proceeding, the landlord will inevitably settle.

3. There's a little known law which went into effect in july of last year which creates standards for how many decibels of noise various construction equipment can make (concrete saws, jackhammers etc...) but more importantly, requires ALL construction sites to have posted and have on file what is called a mandatory noise reduction plan. here's the link to the laws from the DEP website I don't think there's a construction site in the city in compliance with these laws, and its untested judicial ground, which means it's risky as hell for defendants to go to trial on it, so they'll settle. Call 311 all the time and complain, both to the DEP and the DOB, everytime there's after hours construction, tell them there's no mandatory noise reduction plan etc...They might get a stop work order for a day, or maybe nothing will happen, but if you end up going to trial it will be very helpful evidence.

To be perfectly honest, landlords do illegal stuff like this all the time, but no one knows their rights or legal recourse. Especially if you have a bunch of similar minded tenants, hire a lawyer, and give them hell. Landlords couldn't care less about anything but their pocketbooks, so if you can get money damages, or what's much better if they're trying to renovate or tear down the building, an injunction, you can hit them where it hurts.