Booted tenants sue Loft Board over alleged secret meeting

Ex-residents at 13-15 Thames say review of their eviction was held behind closed doors

TRD New York /
May.May 23, 2014 05:30 PM

The New York City Loft Board is facing a suit from a group of eight tenants who claim the board secretly locked them out of an executive board meeting. The meeting was to determine whether the tenants were illegally removed from an East Williamsburg complex where a motorcycle gang was allegedly used to harass the residents.

The suit, filed May 16 in Manhattan Supreme Court, claims that during a January 2014 meeting, the Loft Board, which regulates the conversion of former manufacturing facilities into residential spaces, met in a closed session regarding a legal dispute at the 13-15 Thames Street property.

“One of the key things we want is just a transcript of the executive session,” said attorney Thomas Hillgardner, who represents the tenants. “We think there was a little hanky panky going on.”

Lawyers for the tenants claim the Loft Board met in closed session to determine whether the families living in that property were legally protected under the city’s loft conversion regulations. In 2013, a report by Administrative Law Judge John Spooner recommended that the buildings be considered a horizontal multiple dwelling. That would allow 16 residents who were fighting to remain on the property to stay on as legal tenants.

The two adjacent buildings, both about 60 years old, are three stories tall and were originally zoned for nut storage in the cellar, a nut factory on the first floor and a clothing factory on the second and third floors, according to court documents. The buildings were owned by a firm called Massive Rock Realty Corp, from 1991 to 2011, when they were sold to a firm managed by Brooklyn landlord Andy Chau, according to court documetns.

The buildings were being occupied by tenants that some regarded as squatters. According to the tenant’s attorney, members of the Forbidden One’s motorcycle gang were allowed to use the building as a clubhouse and were encouraged to harass the tenants.

Chau told The Real Deal that he sold the property one year ago, and no longer is involved in the building. Chau has previously denied any use of the motorcycle gang.

Several members of the Forbidden Ones gang were charged in a 2012 federal investigation into trafficking of high caliber firearms. The gang allegedly had a cannon pointed at the front door of 15 Thames Street to prevent anyone from interrupting their meetings, according to federal prosecutors.

According to court documents, a group of up to 20 tenants all occupied the first floor of a loft complex, located at 13-15 Thames Street, in Williamsburg. About nine tenants had allegedly occupied the first floor of 13

Department of Buildings records show that a partial vacate order remains in place for the cellar and first floor

The city Department of Law said it is reviewing the filing.

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