“Eco-yogi slumlords” surrender $2M house in settlement with city
Couple was accused of illegally pushing out tenants during moratorium
UPDATED Feb. 23, 2022, 10:39 p.m.: In retrospect, Loretta Gendville and Gennaro Brooks-Church would have been better off staying under the radar.
Instead, the landlord couple drew attention to themselves by forcing out tenants from 1214 Dean Street during the pandemic and picking up the moniker “eco-yogi slumlords of Brooklyn.”
The city sued in December 2020, accusing them of running an illegal short-term rental operation and, along with Attorney General Letitia James, announced a $2.25 million settlement Wednesday. The landlords surrendered the Crown Heights row house, worth $2 million, in the deal. It will be turned into affordable housing.
The settlement is the first resulting from the city’s Unlawful Eviction Law. The attorney general’s office participated in the investigation. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development will work with an entity to rehab the property.
The lawsuit alleged that the landlords ran “an illegal and hazardous” short-term rental operation at nine buildings. Court documents state they hosted 5,600 visitors and profited $1.4 million.
“Today’s settlement sends a clear message to slumlords everywhere in the city: Cruel and illegal behavior will not be tolerated,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. The case was brought by the de Blasio administration more than a year before Adams took office.
Kenneth Fisher, who represented Gendville and Brooks-Church, said in a statement, “The matter was settled without the need for protracted and expensive litigation and without any admission of liability. It was a good outcome.”
Gendville owned a chain of yoga studios and Brooks-Church runs a “green” construction company in addition to owning 1214 Dean Street.
The couple will also pay $250,000 in city and state penalties. Additionally, the couple agreed to no longer operate illegal short-term rentals in the city, although that prohibition apparently had not stopped them from doing so in the first place.
“During a period of unprecedented global struggle, Brooks-Church and Gendville callously forced New Yorkers from their homes,” James said in a statement. “We have long seen these types of harmful housing scams, especially in Central Brooklyn, where people make a business out of unfairly and inhumanely pushing others out of their homes.”
This article has been updated with a statement from the defendants’ attorney.