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CBS 2 Exclusive: Commissioner Says HPD Is ‘Pursuing Every Tool’ Against Brooklyn Landlord

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Answers have come forth for tenants of a man alleged to be the worst landlord in all of New York City.

As CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported Wednesday, after repeated tries, CBS 2 finally tracked down a city commissioner who has the power to get their homes fixed and their landlord punished.

Residents of a building at 98 Linden St. in Bushwick, Brooklyn, have lived for 10 months with walls demolished and kitchens and bathrooms in a shambles. The building is owned by landlord Joel Israel – alleged to be the worst of the worst among New York City slumlords.

Ten months ago, Israel ordered the kitchens and bathrooms demolished, allegedly without a permit. CBS 2 exclusively reported on the tenants’ complaints in February in the Linden Street building, as well as another building Israel owns with his brother.

Attorneys for the tenants have been asking for civil penalties and for Israel to be thrown in jail.

But Israel recently went to court and blamed the tenants.

CBS 2 tried to speak with Israel, with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and with city Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been. Been initially declined to comment, giving CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport no choice but to confront her.

Been’s job at HPD includes rooting out bad landlords to fixing the messes they leave behind.

Rapoport: “I’d like to know what you’re doing specifically to help the people of 98 Linden St. in Brooklyn…. The conditions are atrocious.”
Been:”I have to go.”

Rapoport: “The public advocate is saying you — HPD — could be doing more. Do you have anything to say about that?”

Been: “I’d love to hear what other tools we have available. We’re using everything we can.”

Rapoport: “He’s been accused of busting up the place.”

Been: “We’ve been out there. We’ve issued violations. We’ve issued fines. We’ve brought him into court. We’re working with the tenants on their litigation. We’re pursuing every tool that we have legally to go against him.”

It was clear that Commissioner Been knew of Israel, and was aware of the deplorable condition

She also knew that Public Advocate Letitia James is demanding HPD pay to fix the extreme damage after ten miserable months.

The tenants’ lawyer said the system is a complete failure.

“Not only HPD, but the mayor has to ask, like, why won’t you help our clients?” said Legal Services NYC attorney Brent Meltzer.

When Rapoport asked Been if she thought the tenants had a right to be frustrated, she replied, “We’re all frustrated.”

But tenants at 98 Linden St. said Been is not the one living in a wrecked apartment.

The tenants said demolitions were done by the owner, on purpose and out of greed, to drive them out of rent-stabilized homes.

After speaking briefly with Rapoport while walking, Commissioner Been disappeared into an office with no new promises for the tenants.

The tenants said they just want relief from the city, and to get the problems fixed now instead of waiting indefinitely for the slow wheels of justice to deal with their landlord.

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