Brooklyn

Rent-stabilized Sunset Park tenants long displaced by fire file suit against landlords, DOB for ‘legal loophole’

Tenants of a rent-stabilized Sunset Park house constructing that was ravaged by a fire final fall have filed a lawsuit against their landlords and metropolis and state regulatory companies, claiming the constructing’s homeowners have made unlawful modifications to their residences in an try and completely displace residents.

Landlords made modifications to rent-stabilized models

According to the suit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court late final month, landlords Jane and Xiang Yang and William Yang, LLC, illegally utilized for permits from the town’s Department of Buildings to make important structure modifications to a minimum of 4 of the six models at 475 forty third St. Because the constructing is rent-stabilized, any important modifications ought to have first been permitted by the state’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal – however the landlords skipped that step, and DOB permitted the modifications with out state enter.

With the permits permitted and tenants nonetheless displaced by the fire, the landlords started working on “renovations” — which included constructing new partitions and including new doorways and flooring, in keeping with DOB information. The modifications would make important modifications to the affected residences — including bogs, altering the situation of the kitchens — and, most significantly, decreasing the scale or variety of bedrooms.

Units at 475 forty third St. have been vacant since a fire ravaged the constructing final fall – and tenants say the landlords are illegally making an attempt to drive them out completely. Google Maps

“If the plans and permits are not nullified, and the Landlords proceed with construction on Petitioners’ apartments, Petitioners will be irreparably harmed, as the apartments will no longer fit the needs of their families,” the suit reads.

In addition to the landlords, the lawsuit — filed by the Legal Aid Society, representing the tenants — targets DOB and DHCR. The tenants and their attorneys say DOB violated the regulation once they permitted the permits with out making certain that they had been cleared by DHCR. 

An electronic mail to the owner’s prior authorized illustration was not instantly returned. 

“Our clients and their families are facing permanent displacement from their homes and communities because these unscrupulous landlords are exploiting a loophole that could easily be corrected if DHCR and the DOB merely coordinated with one another,” stated Nell Hirschmann-Levy, supervising lawyer with the Legal Aid Society’s Housing Justice Unit. “It is reprehensible that these agencies have not addressed or attempted to address this egregious practice on their own. We look forward to fighting on behalf of our clients in court.”

The motion asks that the court docket vacate the DOB’s acceptance and approval of the allow functions for 475 forty third St. and make extra important modifications to metropolis regulation by “declaring that DOB’s policy and practice of approving plans for altering and/or reconfiguring rent-stabilized apartments without approval by HCR violates the New York City Charter, Building Code, and Rent Stabilization Laws and Code.”

Finally, the suit calls for the court docket drive DOB to implement new measures that might forestall the division from approving modifications to rent-stabilized models with out DHCR approval.

Representatives for the town’s authorized division and DHCR didn’t instantly present touch upon the lawsuit. 

Reducing the scale and variety of bedrooms might drive tenants out of their properties as a result of the residences not comfortably match their households, Hirschmann-Levy informed Brooklyn Paper, which might allow the landlords to cost new tenants larger rents — doubtless in violation of rent-regulation legal guidelines.

“Landlords are looking for opportunities, often, to rent to young, wealthier professionals who might not know the laws,” she stated. “… they get an apartment, they’re excited to get it, and they don’t necessarily question the regulatory status. And see landlords sometimes overcharging tenants rent without them knowing it.”

When landlords apply for alteration permits, they need to speak in confidence to DOB if the constructing incorporates rent-regulated or stabilized models — and the landlords at 475 forty third St. did disclose that, Hirschmann-Levy stated. But that didn’t set off any type of computerized rejection with DOB, and she or he is pissed off on the lack of coordination between the division and DHCR.

sunset park building on fifth avenue
Lawyers say the problems between DOB and DHCR are pervasive and trigger points for tenants all around the metropolis. They hope this case will make everlasting coverage modifications at DOB.Google Maps

“The fix, to me, seems simple. There’s about 1 million rent-regulated or rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. They could have a list – I mean, DHCR knows which apartments are registered, because they’re registered with DHCR,” she stated.

A bigger problem for tenants citywide

The Legal Aid Society has different civil and prison circumstances against the owner in Brooklyn Housing Court, Hirschmann-Levy stated, and so they have beforehand been ordered to revive the residences to their pre-fire situation and layouts — however have refused to adjust to court docket orders. She hopes that the Supreme Court will each change metropolis and state coverage and drive the owner to make these modifications.

Landlords all around the metropolis have been making the most of the identical authorized loopholes for years, she stated, and the Legal Aid Society is at the moment preventing a number of similar fights in Brooklyn and elsewhere. As long as authorized battles proceed in court docket, the landlords can delay making precise modifications, and tenants develop extra distant from their properties.

Some of the Sunset Park tenants have been staying with relations and one stayed in a shelter short-term proper after the fire. 

“Children and families are connected to certain schools and medical facilities, whatever it is – and when you’re forced to leave your area, potentially for over a year, maybe closer to two years – it sometimes gets closer to move back, and landlords know that,” Hirschmann-Levy stated. 

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