Prospect Park

One year after blaze, families displaced by fire get small relief

November 15, 2019 Kelly Mena
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Nine months after a massive blaze destroyed their building, 18 displaced tenant families got a mixed verdict in court on Friday. A judge set a deadline by which their landlord must complete repairs, but the families will be receiving no reimbursement for the cost of losing their homes for nearly a year. 

Longtime residents of the six-story building at 180 E. 18th Street near Prospect Park asked Judge Remy Smith in Brooklyn Housing Court on Friday to order their landlord, Juda Rosenfeld of JBM Estates, to commit to a schedule of repairs for damage incurred during a fire back in February — or face civil penalties.

Smith set a deadline of Jan. 31, 2020, for the repairs. The mandate was a small victory for tenants and housing advocates, who were disappointed the judge did not grant relocation fees to the displaced families. 

“Today’s outcome in Housing Court show that Housing Court is not a place of justice for tenants. Although tenants got a date that their apartments will be repaired, tenants should have received relocation costs by the landlord,” said Estefania Trujillo Preciado, a community organizer with the Flatbush Tenant Coalition. “Our organizing continues, and tenants are not giving up. We showed up in numbers, and our strength was present in court today.”

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Residents say the lack of repairs at their building has left them without a home since February. As a result, they have been separated from their families; some even found themselves homeless. 

Image of a destroyed unit at 180 East 18th Street that was damaged during a three alarm fire back in February. Photo: Brooklyn Legal Services.

The building on East 18th Street currently has 420 outstanding violations — 213 of which are considered “extremely hazardous” according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. These violations include repairs for window replacements, water-logged ceilings and walls, mold removal, gas and electrical line restoration and roof repairs, among other improvements.

The Department of Buildings has issued a stop work order and partial vacate order at the building, due to at least seven immediately hazardous violations. On the DOB’s most recent inspection of the building on Wednesday, the property was issued six violations for illegal construction work.

The fire erupted on Feb. 25 around 11 a.m. on the top floor of the building, allegedly due to faulty wiring, according to a tenant at the time. The blaze took nearly 140 firefighters and almost two hours to extinguish.

Multiple calls to JBM Estates went unanswered. The company is marked as “permanently closed” online.

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