The Real Deal New York

Brooklyn landlords sought white tenants: suit

Lawsuit alleges racial discrimination against black residents at East Flatbush buildings

April 15, 2014 05:30PM

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A new lawsuit charges the owners of two Brooklyn rental complexes with pushing out black tenants in an effort to bring in white residents.

According to the suit, filed by tenants at complexes on Brooklyn Avenue and Hawthorne Street in East Flatbush, landlords Yeshaya Wasserman, Shay Wasserman and Yitzchok Rambod have ignored repair requests, offered cash buyouts and forced evictions since purchasing the buildings in 2009. White tenants who do not live in rent-controlled units, meanwhile, are not subjected to the same treatment, the plaintiffs allege.

In addition to the shoddy repairs, the landlords showed a “persistent refusal” to cash rent checks or deliver front door keys to black tenants, according to the suit.

The suit also charges that white tenants are hit with only minimal rent increases when their leases expire, while black tenants are slapped with double-digit hikes.

“Entirely lacking a rational business justification, this course of conduct is blatantly designed to ambush black tenants who have lived in the apartments for years paying affordable rents and force them out, thus enabling defendants to re-rent the apartment to white tenants,” the suit says.

Representatives for the landlords did not immediately return the Post’s calls seeking comment. [NYP]Julie Strickland

  • it varies

    I’m sure there are buildings where the opposite is true and the regulated tenants enjoy uncommon leniency and rent freezes. Unfortunately, this also means market tenants have to put up with weird neighbors who are only weird because they know they can get away with it.

  • Sophists cloud the issue

    We would never let market tenants get away with the stuff that regulated tenants do BUT also, we have been very lucky except for one or two hiccups, we have had a series of high quality (not RICH) but very well brought up young people mostly from out of New York and they’ve been many colors. Just because someone is paying market, does not mean that they are on their best behavior.

    Maybe the building isn’t all that neighborly and the new tenants are getting minimal hikes to get them to stay longer since people can change their mind and want out. This might be a plain jane building so it is competing with everything else out there in the price range.

    “Entirely lacking in business justification” is biting the hand that houses you when the market tenants are the reason that the building can keep going – I don’t imagine the government is PAYING SPONYS to provide affordable housing to the complainants.

    It’s just CRUEL and mocking to use those words in a costly lawsuit against the building owners who have to abide by a covenant to house rent regulated tenants but when the tenants break the rules that allow them to be rent regulated justifying an eviction, the tenants ATTACK the landlord for exercising the right to not rent to them any longer. Pretty sadistic. A deal’s a deal – that’s what’s held over all the landlords that they have to abide by the rent regs but the way the news is framed, tenants can’t ever be called on their misbehavior that legally justifies ousting them.

    What exactly is a “forced eviction”? it sounds so violent and inappropriate – is that why it uses the words “forced” because I have never heard of a voluntary eviction.

  • hard to believe such racism

    East Flatbush is a magnet for White renters? Since when?

    So does this mean that Black people who can afford market rents don’t apply for apartments in Flatbush? How come?

    • RACISM is a heavy accusation

      Can the landlords sue if it is discovered that the tenants falsely accused them of racism. It’s one thing to exercise your rights under the rent regulations but it’s something else entirely to be mischaracterized as a racist. What if this invites some kind of attack like what happened after Spike Lee went on a tirade and homeowners got their property vandalized as a result?

  • very aggressive and entitled

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/landlords-harassed-targeted-rent-stabilized-tenants-suit-article-1.1757051

    They rented to white, asian and black and the latter is suing too! If the new Black guy wasn’t also suing, would the free legal rep be justified in taking this case based on racism because it looks like the tenants were getting away with stuff like WASHING MACHINES in the apartments.

    • either or

      How confusing: the Daily News article ends with the undermining comment that the landlords are also taking advantage of new tenants because they are being charged market

      but

      The Post article reports that they are suing for racism because the new tenants get offered lower percentage rent hikes …

      so which is it?

      Are the market tenants being exploited or the market tenants are getting preferential rents racistly?

      • still not sure

        I would like to know the dollar figure of the rents for the nonBlack tenants and the one new Black tenant.

        Pavita
        Krishnaswamy, an attorney for the tenants, said Wasserman is targeting
        them because they are black. She said 20 of the 52 rent-stabilized
        apartments in the complex have been vacated since he took ownership and,
        according to the lawsuit, 14 of the 15 new tenants are white or Asian.

        She said the lone black tenant who moved in after Wasserman bought
        the complex faced a 13.9 percent rent increase while rent for tenants of
        other races went up less than 3 percent. – See more at: http://www.brooklynews.com/20140416/tenants-claim-discrimination-brooklyn-landlord/#sthash.yxbJzV4q.dpuf

        • need more info

          I would also want to know the DETAILS of those successful evictions because maybe they didn’t live there themselves. Maybe COINCIDENTALLY there were a lot of tenant misconduct in the building because Housing Court is pro-tenant just like the government and for that many apartments to have been vacated, either he offered them good money to move or there was something he could evict them for.

          I would love to believe that this is an honest lawsuit but in my personal experience, people who sue are not always the victims or honest.

    • free for all

      “One longtime tenant claims that she has been without hot water since Friday despite repeatedly alerting her landlords.”

      Okay, it is impossible to control the hot water to only come out of spigots in market rent apartments.

      If this is free legal representation, shouldn’t there be penalties for lying?

  • Full Exposure

    How many tenants are there in total and of those, how many are claiming racism and abuse?

    Is it possible that this is just abusing the newish landlord by having him permanently smeared as a racist like Menachem Stark will now forever be known as a slumlord?

    It doesn’t cost them anything to smear the owners since their legal representation is free and no one is going to remember these plaintiffs and hold it against them that they pointed the finger at someone for being racist when … if they were really racist, they wouldn’t have anything to do with new Asian and Black tenants regardless of how much rent they were paying.

    I think it’s too late for these property owners because once you are mentioned in a lawsuit, water won’t wash you clean – especially not if the press gets involved on the side of the tenants.

    http://consumerist.com/2014/04/16/court-rules-that-injury-to-corporate-reputation-doesnt-justify-hiding-identity-from-public/

  • Its not a Spike Lee situation

    Maybe the owners weren’t being racist when they demanded the removal of washing machines; they could have been concerned with flooding but a dryer could cause a fire:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140416/upper-west-side/equinox-gym-on-amsterdam-avenue-evacuated-after-fire-breaks-out

    I hope the owners answer their accusers in depth. If not in a lawsuit then after the fact especially if you lose and are forever branded a racist, BLOG it. I would personally transcribe it for them because I think the racism charge is very serious. I’m not afraid of racists but racism is evil and if you are not evil, you need to stand on the side against it and declare yourself with facts.

  • Blame Game

    http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/terence-p-jeffrey/86m-full-time-private-sector-workers-sustain-148m-benefit-takers

    How many market rent tenants are needed to afford how many rent regulated tenants? And if you do survive the discount on regulated apartments, you still are subject to attack because your market rent tenants are victims of anti-affordable housing rents, correct?

    Because affordable housing is 30% of income BUT regulated rent is not raised when rents are far less than 30% of income, correct? And we are taxed and charged in various ways as owners in excess of affordability, correct? We’re not even allowed to investigate how our property taxes are assessed.

    Maybe the discrimination lawsuit should be on the other foot?

    These landlords didn’t buy this building to speculate on it, correct? They didn’t take out a weirdly high mortgage and then renege and flip it or anything like that, did they?

    They tried to get rid of washing machines and dogs and maybe they wanted identification from tenants who wanted keys? There aren’t enough details to know what really happened but the press coverage already smears the owners.

    How is that just?

  • Have Your Say
  • not white/jpns in South Africa

    Maybe they should just remove the Asian tenant(s) from the category of preferred tenants because otherwise in life in the neighborhood, they don’t enjoy higher status:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140418/clinton-hill/man-robbed-of-chefs-knife-kitchen-tools-at-knifepoint-police-say

  • I hope there is a followup
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