Brooklyn landlords sued by city for “illegal” Airbnbs

Pair netted $1.4M in profits since 2016: lawsuit

1214 Dean Street in Brooklyn (Google Maps)
1214 Dean Street in Brooklyn (Google Maps)

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.

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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