NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Alleged Brooklyn slumlord brothers Joel and Amram Israel were arrested Thursday, accused of trying to drive out tenants by creating appalling and squalid conditions.

The brothers are accused of making four of their apartment buildings in gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods uninhabitable for rent-stabilized tenants, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. The landlords could have charged higher rents to new residents.

The Israel brothers pleaded not guilty to charges of scheme to defraud, burglary, grand larceny, criminal mischief, unlawful eviction, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records.

Their attorney said they plan to fight the charges vigorously.

“I’ll say this, I’ve never seen an indictment like this,” the lawyer said. “To charge burglary in a case like this is astonishing, frankly.”

The burglary charge stems from an incident in which a tenant claimed she returned home from a doctor’s appointment to find she had been locked out and her belongings had been boxed up and removed for a demolition job, CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported.

The brothers face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the burglary charge.

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said crimes such as the ones the Israels are accused of happen too often in the city.

“We can no longer let these matters just linger in housing court,” he said. “We can longer let the housing advocates and lawyers fight by themselves.”

CBS2 first reported the story of Joel Israel more than a year ago, when tenants in several of his buildings claimed he was trying to force them out by ripping up their apartments for repairs that would never happen.

“He should be in jail,” one tenant said then. “My landlord should be in jail.”

Residents at 98 Linden Blvd. in Bushwick were forced to live in deplorable conditions inside gutted apartment, many partially demolished.

Brooklyn landlord Joel Israel, accused of demolishing apartments, appears in court (Credit: CBS 2)

The interior of one of the apartments owned by Joel Israel (credit: CBS2)

Israel and his brother own several other buildings where tenants say the same thing has happened.

“Our landlord destroyed our kitchen and bathroom, and for 18 months, we had to use other people’s bathrooms, including public facilities as well,” Michelle Crespo, a Linden Boulevard tenant, said Thursday.

Many residents were forced to move out after their homes were boarded up and ruled uninhabitable by the city.

“One way that criminal landlords have been trying to get rent-regulated tenants out is by provoking vacate orders,” Adam Meyers, with Brooklyn Legal Services Corp., told CBS2 last month. “If they neglect the building or if they deliberately sabotage the building, the city is going to come in and issue a vacate order and that basically does their job for them,”

For Crespo, justice appears to be within reach.

“We did not give up,” she said. “And we’re here now talking to you and telling you, sharing the story, which it’s a big deal for all of us.”


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