Yechiel Weinberger took third-place on the public advocate’s ranking of New York City’s worst landlords in 2015. This year, he seems to be gunning for the top spot.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Albert de la Tierra, a rent-stabilized tenant at Weinberger’s 196 Rockaway Parkway in Brownsville, accused the landlord of illegally locking him out of his home in the dead of winter — in the midst of the pandemic — and throwing out an estimated $35,000 worth of his belongings.
The lawsuit, filed in Kings County Supreme Court, states that Tierra lost his job and fell behind on rent a few months before the pandemic hit. Last summer, Weinberger offered to waive Tierra’s arrears and buy out the remainder of his lease, an offer Tierra declined. The suit states this offer was unlawful.
In December of last year, Tierra notified his landlord that he’d be flying to California to care for his sick mother; in the meantime, his fiancée looked after the place. Tierra alleges that he remained in contact with Weinberger while he was away.
But on Jan. 28, Tierra’s fiancée notified him that all of his belongings — including furniture, clothing and letters from his children — had been removed from the apartment and left on the curb to be collected as trash.
His fiancée witnessed the building superintendent and other staffers placing Tierra’s belongings on the curb late at night, the suit alleges. When she tried to intervene, she was “pushed aside” and prevented from entering the apartment.
Weinberger told Tierra he had been locked out because of “allegations of prostitution and drug dealing in the apartment,” the suit charges, and that to Weinberger’s knowledge, Tierra was no longer living there. Attempts to reach Weinberger for comment were unsuccessful.
After trying and failing repeatedly to gain access to his apartment, Tierra spent February at a neighbor’s. Midway through the month, he filed an emergency Housing Court proceeding over the illegal lockout.
Police let him back into the apartment after Weinberger allegedly changed the locks, but he found the place in the midst of a renovation, as evidenced by drop cloths and paint supplies. The gas and electricity, the suit claims, were shut off.
In March, he managed to get his utilities restored, but because Tierra regained entry to his home, his emergency lockout proceeding was discontinued, according to the suit.
Tierra is suing for punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish and deter” his landlord’s “malicious” actions, as well as for harassment and attorney’s fees.
In March 2021, tenants from several of the 73 buildings Weinberger owns throughout Brooklyn and the Bronx rallied in Borough Park outside one of his properties, demanding he waive their rent and drop housing charges he had filed, News12 reported.
Tenants complained of dirty water, nonfunctioning stoves and months without heat, according to News12.