Legal Aid Society sues its own landlord over office conditions
Suit alleges mold infestation at Leser-owned Brooklyn office
The Legal Aid Society’s latest landlord fight is hitting close to home.
The nonprofit legal aid provider sued the landlord of its Brooklyn offices, amNY reported. The organization on Tuesday accused the Brooklyn-based Leser Group of failing to keep its offices at 111 Livingston Street habitable, including a mold infestation the organization said has been raging for years.
Legal Aid said the conditions have prevented its 500-person staff from returning to the Downtown Brooklyn office. The organization is suing for $2 million in damages and is aiming to terminate its lease in June, 25 years after moving into the building.
“For two years in a row, Legal Aid’s landlord at 111 Livingston Street in Brooklyn has placed our staff and clients in harm’s way by allowing mold contamination to spread throughout our premises,” a Legal Aid spokesperson told amNY.
In court filings, Legal Aid detailed how poor conditions stymied multiple attempts to return to the office after the onset of the pandemic. The organization said employees returning from remote work in the summer of 2020 found fungi across the six-floor office; Legal Aid sent its employees home and hired Airtek to investigate the problem.
The environmental services firm forwarded its results to Leser, which said the problem was fixed by January 2021 after improvements were made to the HVAC system. However, Legal Aid this week alleged similar problems were discovered five months later, forcing the organization to abandon the office again. A city inspector allegedly found more than 30 square feet of mold upon an inspection.
New York City issued a summons against Leser, but it denied responsibility, according to the court filing. Legal Aid said it has racked up more than $1.7 million in expenses, including hiring consultants and renting temporary office space elsewhere.
Leser has cited the pandemic as the reason for the infestation, while also putting the blame on Legal Aid for being unable to bring its workers back to the office.
“It is regrettable that the Legal Aid Society, a tenant in the space without incident for over 20 years, is facing its own problems in getting its employees to return to the office, has taken to making highly inaccurate statements about the property and the lease,” a spokesperson for Leser told amNY.
Despite the lawsuit, a Legal Aid spokesperson told amNY the organization was still “willing to work” with Leser on the problem.
[amNY] — Holden Walter-Warner