In addition to leaking ceilings and unfinished construction left behind from a fire several months ago, the building is infested with roaches, rats troll the hallways, rooms are overrun with bedbugs and there are a number of building codes issues, including an insufficient number of communal bathrooms per floor.
According to several of the building’s occupants at 1109 Manhattan Ave., problems began to surface in 2009 when Jay Deutchman took over as their landlord.
Today, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and 34 tenants of the roughly 200-unit affordable housing building have filed lawsuits against Duetchman to address these conditions, in hopes of bringing the building up to code and regain control of their home.
“HPD doesn’t do that for every building, so that gives you some idea of how intense things have gotten,” said Brian Sullivan, senior staff attorney representing the tenants. “Parts of the building have been without heat for over a year, the plumbing often gets backed up, and there are also basic fire safety issues.”
Behind some doors to the roughly 10 foot-by-10 foot rooms lies often nothing but a heaping pile of junk, stacked to the ceiling. In some cases there is no door and no floor or ceiling for that matter, causing imminent safety issues and fire hazard.
In addition to the lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in many of the rooms and common space, the fire escape is falling off the back of the building.
“For close to a century, this building has housed veterans with disabilities, seniors, working people, and these are affordable units that could be a really valuable resource for the neighborhood and the city,” Sullivan said. “They are just being allowed to fall into disrepair.”
In response to a “small” mattress fire on the third floor of the building around two months ago, according to residents, the landlord stripped out the floor and ceiling to all adjoining rooms, and still has left the space in disrepair.
When Joseph Bonvino’s neighbor died, the room was left untouched and the garbage was left behind, still strewn across the floor to this day.
In his own room, the ceiling is pealing off from an unfixed leak, there is mold growing along the walls and he only can only secure his front door with a padlock, just some of the many violations deeming the building an illegal single-room occupancy establishment (SRO).
“When I first moved in here it was nice,” Bonvino said. “But this guy doesn’t do nothing. They don’t even sweep the floors. We have to clean up the bathrooms or nobody will do it.”
It has been 10 years since he moved in at the Greenpoint Hotel, and as a senior with kidney disease, heart problems and high blood pressure to name just a few of his conditions, he says he is vulnerable to illness.
“This guy’s a slum lord,” he said. “He has no right to treat the people the way he does.”
Greg Hanlon, a representative of St. Nicks Alliance, says Deutchman is not the only landlord taking advantage of low-income residents.
“We see this as a consistent, and particularly egregious example of a trend in this neighborhood,” Hanlon said. “A number of landlords are using these unscrupulous tactics to force residents out.”
The St. Nicks Alliance has long fought for the residents of the Greenpoint Hotel, and has taken action in helping them hold bi-monthly tenant meetings to voice their concerns.
“Men like Jay Deutchman, I have no respect for because they make money mistreating other people, and that’s what he’s done and that’s what he continues to do,” said Councilman Steve Levin.
Levin was in attendance at the group’s last meeting, and stood in support with the residents in an effort to bring attention to the issue.
“He treats the tenants of this building, who are hardworking individuals, people who pay their rent, disabled veterans, and he treats them like they are something less than human and that is beneath contempt,” he said.
Deutchman has started to make progress on some of the repairs by sweeping the halls and putting a lock on the back entry to the building, just before the tenants held an organized rally for the media last week.
If in fact the building is taken from Deutchman following the suit, Sullivan explained the property would then be handed over to a “receiver” to make the repairs.
“The residents are all secure at that point,” Sullivan explained. “The receiver would receive rents, do repairs and make sure the building is maintained.”