Rats, roaches and Airbnb: Prospect-Lefferts Gardens tenants sue landlord
Update (3 p.m.): An Airbnb representative told the Brooklyn Eagle that Airbnb is “actively investigating” the listings mentioned.
Tenants of three Prospect-Lefferts Gardens buildings protested alleged harassment from their landlord on Tuesday evening – hours after they filed a lawsuit in Kings County Supreme Court against their landlord.
The group of 10 tenants of 599 Flatbush Ave., 607 Flatbush Ave. and 611 Flatbush Ave. filed a suit alleging that their landlord, the Shasho family, routinely harasses them, cuts off their heat and hot water and refuses to make repairs — all because their units are rent-regulated.
The tenants claim the landlords have gone so far as to deliver live rats, mice and roaches inside “refurbished” appliances just to scare them off.
The lawsuit names Miriam, William, Richard and Michelle Shasho, along with their companies First Kings Management LLC and 611 Flatbush Ave. Realty Corp., as defendants. Miriam Shasho and 611 Flatbush Ave. Realty Corp. landed on the Public Advocate’s 2013 list of New York City’s worst landlords.
Tenants, some of whom have lived there for 40 years, claim the Shasho family wants them out to gut-renovate apartments and turn them into illegal Airbnb rentals.
The tenants gathered outside the buildings to protest Tuesday night, along with their lawyer, activists and friends.
Sophia Sallas-Brookwell — who has lived at 607 Flatbush Ave. for a year — pointed at a woman and her child entering the building and said they were Airbnb renters.
Sallas-Brookwell, who is white, said Airbnb renters often speak to her instead of other tenants, who are mostly people of color. She was grateful that some of the people who rented at the building were willing to show tenants where they’d found the rentals online.
“We’ve aggregated some of the listings through their cooperation,” Sallas-Brookwell said.
The Airbnb rental apartments come with air-conditioning, coffee machines and flat screen TVs, the tenants say. The lawsuit alleges that the rentals violate New York State’s Multiple Dwelling Law and City’s Rent Stabilization Code.
Airbnb strongly opposes landlords who evict tenants with the purpose of renting their space on a short-term basis. There is an ongoing need for a comprehensive, statewide bill that would provide for strict recourse against illegal hotel operators while protecting the rights of thousands of regular New Yorkers who are responsibly sharing their home,” said Liz Debold-Fusco, who works for Airbnb.
When asked by the Brooklyn Eagle whether Airbnb would consider taking the three Flatbush Avenue addresses in the lawsuit off its website, Debold-Fusco did not offer comment. [See update above.]
The tenants’ attorney, Catherine Frizell, said her clients deserve many of the basic comforts the landlord ensures for Airbnb guests. Instead, she added, they are deprived of services as their landlord attempts to drive them out.
“The goal is that the tenants get the repairs they’re entitled to, that they get heat and hot water,” said Frizell, a Brooklyn Legal Services lawyer. “There’s no doubt that the landlord is trying to get our clients to move out.”
The Shashos did not own 607 Flatbush Ave. when Elizabeth Hayes moved into her two-bedroom apartment in 1981. “They bought it in the mid-’80s,” Hayes said. “They’ve never been great landlords, but it’s gotten worse.”
Hayes said that William Shasho hired a worker who does repairs in the building late at night. “He terrorizes us. He stomps up and down in the hallway. He punches holes in the walls. It’s deliberate. It’s purposefully being done.”
Hayes is a nursing assistant and wakes up for work at 4 a.m. “Sometimes, he does that until 3 a.m.,” she said.
The residents of the three buildings established a tenants’ association that meets once a month to discuss issues with the landlord.
“I’m all for it, because I’m being harassed and they want to displace us,” said Gretelle Phillips, who has lived at 599 Flatbush Ave. since 1980.
In two cases, residents of the buildings have accused the Shashos of providing them “refurbished” amenities — in which the tenants found live animals.
One woman was given a “refurbished” fridge that had a live rat in it, the lawsuit alleges.
Phillips was given a “refurbished” stove. “They brought the stove to me and there were mice and roaches in the stove. I was scared.”
Phillips said she bought her own stove after that. When Phillips moved in in 1980, she was paying $225 in rent. Now she pays $838.94.
Despite her decades of residency in Brooklyn, she said, William Shasho still asks her, “When are you going back to Barbados?”
“I tell him when I’m ready to move I’ll move, not before,” Phillips said.
Follow reporter Noah Goldberg on Twitter.
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment