Illegal repairs push tenants out of problem-plagued Bushwick building

November 12, 2019 Kelly Mena
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Bushwick tenants who in August sued to take control of their building from a negligent landlord — citing rodents, water leaks and ongoing electrical issues — are now living in hotels across the borough, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned.

The three tenants have been living in hotels since early September, paid for by their landlord INK 1549 Dekalb LLC due to illegal bathroom renovations in the building, according to Elise Goldin, senior community organizer at St. Nicks Alliance, a nonprofit housing organization based in North Brooklyn.

An Aug. 10 inspection found four instances of work being conducted without the required permits including electrical, plumbing and construction work as well as removal of fire safety equipment, according to the city’s Department of Buildings.

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The building was then issued a stop work order due to the unsafe conditions. Tenants were offered relocation assistance, which some — facing a lack of access to their showers and toilets — decided to accept.

“The tenants for almost two months have been out of their apartments, sleeping in hotels, including an 81-year-old woman, Ms. Ana Rosa,” said Goldin. “She has stayed in three different hotels and has been racking up travel expenses traveling back and forth from the apartment to the hotels due to her mobility issues. She misses her home.”

Photo of the allege mold inside the padlocked apartments at 149 Irving Avenue in Bushwick. Eagle file photo by Kelly Mena

The stop work order will remain in place until INK Property Development takes the proper steps to obtain legal permits for the improvement work and restore the building to its original, code-compliant condition, said Abigail Kunitz, a spokesperson from DOB.

The violations are currently pending hearings before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings set for next February, according to city records.

The hazardous living situation at the building is nothing new for the property’s longtime tenants and housing advocates. They say the building has had issues since 2017, when INK took over ownership.

INK did not return multiple phone calls requesting comment.

For the last two years, the building — which has six units, three of which are unoccupied — has been experiencing serious infrastructure issues, with rampant mold in the walls and floors of the property.

Tenants filed paperwork in Brooklyn Housing Court two months ago requesting a court-appointed building administrator as part of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s 7A Management Program within the Housing Quality Enforcement Program.

Court-appointed administrators take over rent-collection responsibilities from landlords and use the revenue to make immediate repairs. The case is set for an early December trial date, according to Goldin.

“Tenants want to return to their homes, they want their homes to be safe, clean and habitable. They want the person managing the building to be responsive and respectful,” said Linden Miller of TakeRoot Justice, the housing justice organization that aided in the original filing of the court paperwork. “Having the bathrooms fixed is a priority, but we are pushing forward to trial on the 7A administrator. We think this situation in the bathrooms goes to further show that landlord isn’t living up to their duty. ”

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