The owner of the Florida Panthers who was President Trump’s former nominee for Secretary of the Army broke New York’s rent stabilization laws at his Brooklyn Heights building, a lawsuit alleges.
Tenants in Vincent Viola’s building at 2 Pierrepont Street are suing the ownership entity — 2 Pierrepont Street LLC — for providing them with free-market leases instead of rent-stabilized leases when they moved in. Viola, the billionaire founder of Virtu Financial, bought the 12-story, 39-unit rental property from Brooklyn Law School in 2015 for $35 million.
Mid-Hudson Associates sold the building to Brooklyn Law School in 1985 to use as student housing, temporarily exempting it from New York’s rent stabilization laws, according to the complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court. However, once Viola purchased the property and began renting out units in early 2019, this temporary exemption ended, meaning the building’s tenants are entitled to rent-stabilized leases, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges that tenants have been charged for “far in excess of the legal rent,” and a total of nine have signed onto the complaint so far. The suit asks the court to stop the landlord from violating New York’s rent stabilization laws and award financial relief to the tenants.
Lucas Ferrara, a partner at Newman Ferrara and adjunct professor at New York Law School, is representing the tenants.
“As far as we’re concerned, this landlord is skating on thin ice,” he said. “When a temporary exemption ends, a building is required to be returned to rent stabilization. Yet, for some reason, Mr. Viola opted to disregard the law and, in an apparent power play, illegally deregulated the units.”
“We look forward to facing off in court,” he continued, “and are pretty certain that the judge will be sending this particular player to the penalty box.”
Representatives for Viola and 2 Pierrepont couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
There are currently two active listings at 2 Pierrepont for one-bedroom apartments asking $3,985 and $3,775 per month, and previous units have rented for between $2,675 for a studio and $15,950 for a three-bedroom, according to StreetEasy.