Bed-Stuy tenants fight to prevent eviction

July 15, 2019 Kevin Limiti
693 Madison St. Image via Google Maps
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Tenants of a Bedford-Stuyvesant building went to court on Thursday to delay action on the eviction of a longtime resident, renewing a two-year battle in which they’ve accused their landlord of harassment and deception.

The 693 Madison St. tenant association, alongside the community organizing group Equality for Flatbush, has been fighting since 2017 against Isaac Hirsch, the building’s landlord and the president of JIH Builders. According to an attorney from TakeRoot Justice, which represents the tenants, JIH attempted to eliminate rent regulation protections by fraudulently claiming upgrades to the property. A court ruled in favor of JIH in November, and the tenants have filed an appeal.

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Without protections from rent regulations, landlords are not required to offer lease renewals. Half of the eight-unit building’s residents have already moved out, according to TakeRoot attorney Addrana Montgomery. Three members of the tenant association — all of whom are black or Latinx — remained to fight the landlord. Two of them will move out in the summer.

JIH moved to evict the final tenant association member — Ava Pennie. Thursday’s proceedings were to request additional time for Pennie to respond to the landlord’s request that the judge dismiss the case; a dismissal would lead to Pennie’s eviction.

Alleged methods of harassment included locking tenants out of their apartments, shutting off the heat in the middle of winter and the use of a toxic paint which, in one case, resulted in a hospitalization because of the fumes.

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“I had to take the kids and run out of the apartment,” Pennie said.

Other harassment tactics the tenants allege include constant construction on empty apartments, a combination lock on the basement that prevented tenants from accessing the meters and a roof alarm that went off all day after a JIH Builder worker came to fix a door.

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Montgomery, of TakeRoot Justice, said the alleged harassment began shortly after JIH Builders bought the building.

Isaac Hirsch denied the alleged harassment, including the use of hazardous paint, saying that everyone is “very happy.”

So far, Pennie has been dissatisfied with the process. “I don’t think the courts are for the tenants really,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle. “You can see it. It’s only for the landlords.”

Correction (July 17 at 12:45 p.m.): This article has been changed to correct several inaccuracies. These include misstating that Thursday’s proceedings were in regards to tenants’ attempts to appeal a decision allowing the building to become unregulated. The original article also misquoted Montgomery, and that quote has been removed. 

The Brooklyn Eagle regrets the errors.

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