A Brooklyn couple who made headlines this summer for trying to evict tenants despite the pandemic also ran illegal Airbnb rentals, according to a new lawsuit.
The city slapped Loretta Gendville and Gennaro Brooks-Church — the so-called “eco-yogi slumlords of Brooklyn” — with a suit accusing them of operating “an illegal and hazardous” short-term rental operation at nine buildings. The pair allegedly own five of the properties and illegally converted 14 of 22 units into short-term rentals.
Court documents allege they hosted 5,600 visitors over several years, pocketing $1.4 million in profits. They used multiple Airbnb accounts, including one in their daughter’s name. But in reviews, guests described deceptive ads, unclean buildings and unresponsive hosts.
According to the suit, Gendville and Brooks-Church had been operating the illegal units since 2016. The city issued 19 separate violations and imposed $50,000 in fines, only $5,000 of which were paid. The de Blasio administration is seeking $1 million in punitive damages, plus fines between $350 and $500 for each fake listing to come from a restitution fund to pay duped guests.
Gendville, who owned a chain of yoga studios, and Brooks-Church, who runs a “green” construction company, were at the center of an eviction scandal this summer. After they tried to kick out tenants at 1214 Dean Street in Brooklyn, protesters formed a human chain in front of the building. Last month, the city sued the pair for allegedly trying to force out tenants despite the moratorium on evictions.
[NYP] — E.B. Solomont