Tenants say Brooklyn landlord destroyed apartment

Josh Einiger reports from Bushwick.
March 18, 2014 8:29:23 PM PDT
Tenants in Brooklyn say their landlord is trying to run them out.

They say he's doing it by intentionally destroying their apartments.

"Like being in a shelter. That's pretty much how it feels," said Michelle Navas, a tenant.

Michelle Navas says she feels homeless in her very own apartment.

It's the place where she grew up and has lived for 24 years.

Her landlord walled off her kitchen and bathroom leaving her with no plumbing for nine months.

"He wants us out. He wants to evict us. He wants everyone in this building out so he can raise the rent three or four times from what it is now," Navas said.

Michelle says landlord Joel Israel promised to remodel the kitchen and bathroom in just three weeks. But still, you can see right through the floor into the basement.

"We're not the only people, we're not the only people going through this," Navas said.

Earlier, local lawmakers surrounded Michelle on her Bushwick stoop, trying to spotlight the crisis in affordable housing across Brooklyn.

Lax laws, they say, allow landlords to harass rent stabilized tenants to get rid of them, and jack up the rent.

Now, they're calling on the de Blasio administration to help families like Michelle's.

"It's not a matter of building more affordable housing, it's a matter of preservation. And it's a matter of having the law on our side and the mechanism so that we exercise oversight of bad behavior like this landlord," Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said.

"My clients intend to make all necessary repairs as quickly, safely, and responsibly as possible. These buildings were acquired by them after years of neglect and disinvestment. There are deteriorating conditions that must be addressed, which can take considerable time, resources and effort," an attorney for the landlord said.

In the meantime, a judge slashed Michelle's rent from $675 to just a dollar a month in an attempt to get the landlord to act faster.

They're supposed to see each other in court Wednesday.