Rent-stabilized tenants accuse Crown Heights landlord of harassment, neglect
"There is an infestation of roaches and mice and he hasn’t done anything. But he comes for his rent every month.”
Eighteen tenants of rent-stabilized units in four Crown Heights buildings owned by Rubin Dukler went to Brooklyn Housing Court on Thursday to seek a court order forcing him to fix the violation-ridden buildings and stop what they allege is harassment of tenants.
Dukler was named the 17th worst landlord in the city last year by Public Advocate Letitia James, whose office listed 531 HPD violations and 45 DOB violations in the four buildings.
Conditions inside the buildings include inadequate heat and hot water during the winter, mold, water leaks, mice and roaches, missing window guards, uncapped radiator valves and broken front doors and intercoms, according to Urban Homesteading Assistance and Brooklyn Legal Services’ Tenants Rights Coalition.
Watch our video coverage of the tenants’ rally:
The two groups, which organized the courthouse visit and news conference, also say that Dukler has a history of harassing tenants, adding unjustified fees to their rent bills, failing to cash their rent checks in a timely way and ignoring their lawful requests for rent-stabilized leases. Many tenants believe this is a tactic to force them out of their rent-stabilized apartments and deregulate them.
Viola Bivins, a tenant at 1074 Eastern Parkway, told the Brooklyn Eagle that the building where she has lived for 40 years “needs a lot of repairs. We’ve been going after [Dukler] for a long, long time. It needs repairs to the bathroom, the kitchen floor, the building itself; there is an infestation of roaches and mice, and he hasn’t done anything. But he comes for his rent every month.”
Bivins also said that “many tenants won’t join us. They’re scared that the rent will go very high. If he just fixes what he needs to fix, the tenants will be happy, the children will be happy.”
“If they go up on the rent, you have to leave,” she added. “You’re already working three jobs. They’re not fixing anything; you just get up and leave. Then he goes and does a little something to the place, and the rent goes sky high.”
Vivian Xie, staff attorney at Brooklyn Legal Services’ Tenants Rights Coalition, which is representing the tenants, said she is seeking a court order to make repairs and to “enjoin the landlord from harassing the tenants.” Most of the violations in Dukler’s buildings, she says, “have been around for a very long time.”
Not doing repairs, she charged, is a tactic for landlords who are trying to remove apartments from rent stabilization. “Whenever tenants move out, landlords get an increase on the apartment. This often happens in highly gentrified neighborhoods, including Crown Heights.”
BLS’ Tenants Rights Coalition, she added, “represents hundreds of tenants every single year, making sure landlords are held accountable.”
Three of the four buildings in question — 1018 Eastern Parkway, 1074 Eastern Parkway and 1392 Sterling Place — are managed by Iris Holdings Group, whose principal Marc Blumenfrucht “is alleged to have falsely reported the number of rent-stabilized tenants in other buildings he owns in order to get construction permits,” according to a statement from the tenants. The fourth, 1460 Sterling Place, is managed by Dukler himself through Zohov Realty.
The city Department of Social Services is also supporting the tenants.
“In collaboration with our legal assistance provider Legal Services NYC, we will use every tool available to ensure that this landlord clears up hundreds of well-documented violations in his buildings while we give tenants the support they need to live in the homes they deserve free of harassment and fear of displacement,” Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks said in a statement.
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