TPU serves Brooklyn landlords, alleges intimidation and harassment
by Andrew Shilling
Apr 30, 2014 | 489 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Councilman Antonio Reynoso tour JBI Management buildings in Bushwick last month.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Councilman Antonio Reynoso tour JBI Management buildings in Bushwick last month.
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Tenants say workers ripped up the kitchen floor and walls in order to make repairs but never came back to finish the job
Tenants say workers ripped up the kitchen floor and walls in order to make repairs but never came back to finish the job
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The Tenant Protection Unit (TPU) issued a subpoena to Joel and Aaron Israel, principals of JBI Management, in order to investigate numerous allegations that the Brooklyn landlords have systematically harassed rent-regulated tenants.

This comes in response to claims from numerous tenants of JBI Management buildings that workers entered without the proper permits, under the pretense of repairs and upgrades, and destroyed kitchens and bathrooms with sledgehammers, ultimately rendering them unlivable.

“It is not only unconscionable, but it is flat out illegal for any landlord to subject families to living without running water or a functioning bathroom or kitchen,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Since Cuomo created TPU in 2012, investigators have taken 29,000 units from faulty landlords.

Additionally, TPU has audited Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs), requiring itemized bills to substantiate real costs, as these improvements can pave the way for landlords to charge over the $2,500 rent threshold.

“We created the TPU two years ago to protect rent-regulated tenants against this type of egregious harassment, clearly intended to drive tenants from their apartments,” Cuomo said.

In January, TPU pushed for the first-ever settlement against landlords harassing Spanish-speaking tenants, worked towards restoring over a million dollars in overcharges to tenants, and implemented new rent regulations to support new rent laws.

In this particular case, JBI Management allegedly used extreme intimidation tactics to force out families with children and elderly grandparents, who moved into homeless shelters or put up with dangerous living conditions, according to the subpoena.

Daryl Towns, commissioner of the state Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), explained that HCR is responsible for protecting tenants from abuse through TPU.

“This is obviously not the way that responsible landlords renovate apartments. These apartments were trashed, without consideration for structural integrity or the safety and security of the tenants,” Towns said. “While we know that most landlords are committed to following the law, we must take action against those who would brazenly flout it.”

State Senator Martin Dilan added that he hopes this case would send a message to other landlords who attempt to unlawfully remove rent-regulated tenants.

“Many of these buildings are in my district and I take these allegations very seriously,” Dilan said. “Landlords need to understand that they cannot come into this community and push out long-term, hardworking tenants to unlawfully profit.”

Marty Needleman, executive director of Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, said he is happy to see the state take aggressive action with JBI Management.

“There’s no win until the tenants take back their apartments and the conditions are corrected,” Needleman said.

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