North Brooklyn tenants look for relief from rats, mold and lead paint

August 14, 2019 Kelly Mena
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Residents of 12 rent-stabilized northern Brooklyn buildings connected to a nonprofit run by one of the city’s worst slumlords requested in court Wednesday that an independent manager be put in charge of the properties, which they say have been neglected for decades.

Tenants say they are plagued by chronic leaks, collapsed ceilings, lead paint, mold, rats, bed bugs, roaches, blocked fire exits, broken doors and heat and hot water outages — all due to decades of mismanagement capped off by a bankruptcy that’s stalled any repairs for months.

“I live with my special-needs son who is 22, and I have a daughter who is severely asthmatic — and I just realized that I have a severe allergic reaction to mold, so I had a couple of incidents where my throat swelled. And now I have to walk with an EpiPen, because as my body stays in the apartment and I’m allergic, it starts to react,” said Latoya Wiggins, a tenant at 257 Mother Gaston Blvd., one of the buildings run by the organization.

Roaches found in building owned by Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation. Photo courtesy of Legal Services NYC

The dozen properties run by Park Monroe HDFC, Northeast Brooklyn Partnership LP and 984-988 Green Avenue HDFC — all of which are operated by Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation — were nearly foreclosed upon by the city earlier this year for failure to pay down city-backed mortgages. Foreclosure proceedings — and any hope of repairs — halted in February when the companies declared bankruptcy.

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The tenants requested Wednesday in bankruptcy court to appoint a trustee who would collect rent and steer the money toward repairs and maintenance until matters are settled, according to Legal Services NYC, which represents the tenants.

Leaky roof inside of unit of building owned by Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation. Photo courtesy of Legal Services NYC

“The trustee will be able to manage the books, so that person would decide the priorities,” Legal Services NYC attorney Samar Katnani told the Brooklyn Eagle.

“Some of the buildings are more than half-vacant, so renovating and renting out apartments would be beneficial because if the buildings were being utilized at full capacity, they will have more resources to spend.” 

Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corporation CEO Jeffery Dunston was named the second-worst landlord in New York City in 2018 by the Public Advocate’s Office.

The 12 buildings are located across Bushwick and Williamsburg:

  • 1350 Park Pl.
  • 180 Grafton St.
  • 249-251 Mother Gaston Blvd.
  • 257 Mother Gaston Blvd.
  • 477 Saratoga Ave.
  • 403 Kosciuszko St.
  • 399 Kosciuszko St.
  • 671 Halsey St.
  • 984 Greene Ave.

Tenants will return to court at a later date to testify about mismanagement and conditions, which they hope will result in some relief.

“I prefer that they get … a management corporation that is going to be more concerned that the tenants receive the fairness that they deserve — being that we are tenants that pay our rent,” said Makuna Mtambuzi, a tenant of 399 Kosciuszko St.

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