NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Residents in a Brooklyn building say construction debris, leaking pipes, and the threat of rats are all in retaliation for staying put in their rent stabilized apartments.
It’s been a waterfall of problems for tenants in the Greenpoint building ever since they say new owners purchased the property a few years ago.
Tenants like Gretchen Mongrain say they were offered buyouts to leave, some who’ve lived there for almost ten years opted to stay.
The decision, they say, came with a warning.
“If you don’t take the buyout we are going to renovate this and you are going to have to live through the nightmare of renovation,” Mongrain remembers being told.
The construction to the apartments around them has been ongoing for the last year. Residents say shoddy work has led to broken pipes and water leaks, and until CBS2’s crew showed up on Wednesday the courtyard area looked downright disheveled.
By later in the evening, workers were clearing it out.
Mongrain and fellow tenant George Manatos say for the last year they’ve had to go through a series of plastic panels to access her apartments. It’s meant to keep the dirt out, but they say there’s just too much.
“I would be cleaning every night,” Mongrain said. “You wipe the floor and it’s soot from all this dust and debris.”
She says the unit next to her was demolished with a crowbar. When she asked about the noise and debris left behind, she said she received a thinly veiled threat.
“All the person said was ‘I just want to let you know there’s going to be a lot of rats from now on’,” Mongrain said.
Tenants say they’ve complained time and time again, and have even called 311. Numerous stop-work orders have been issued along with fines from the city, but the penalty doesn’t seem stiff enough.
“A lot of leeway for the owners to get away with things where the biggest thing they face is a couple-hundred dollar fine,” Manatos said.
CBS2 asked the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation about the alleged harassment, and why it’s so hard for tenants to get help.
“We have conducted inspections in response to the complaint and we have issued violations,” Deputy Commissioner AnnMarie Santiago said.
Santiago adds the agency also has opened a case in housing court against the building’s owner, Joel Lefkowitz of Perfect Management. CBS2 tried stopping by the address listed for Perfect Management on their website, but only found a shipping store.
Inside the address were dozens of mail boxes belong to any number of small businesses. Over the phone, CBS2 asked for an on camera interview and was denied. Instead, the company sent a statement saying in part,”The work being performed at 97 Clay Street is meant to upgrade the building to improve the quality of life to benefit the tenants.”
The city says a new tenant anti-harassment unit is in the works to give tenants a direct line to the department rather than dealing with 311. It will also focus on holding owners accountable with adequate penalties.