Bushwick Tenants Sue to Force City Takeover of ‘Reprehensible’ Building

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299 Troutman Street

mobilization for justice

Tenants and their allies gather in front of 299 Troutman Street in Bushwick.

Five Bushwick tenants filed a lawsuit Thursday morning against the landlord and other parties connected to a multi-family building, demanding emergency repair services and for the city take control of the site after a decade of “negligence” by the various owners.

The building at 299 Troutman Street has eight units with only four units being utilized while the other four units sit burned and empty on the third and fourth floors after a 2008 fire, according to the Ariana Marmora, senior staff attorney and community outreach specialist for Mobilization for Justice, Inc., a legal services group that is representing the tenants.

According to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the repairs needed in the building are so extensive that they issued an “order to repair/vacate” order to the property after a recent inspection.

The repairs list is long, totalling 107 open housing-code violations, including a lack of significant repairs since the fire, complaints of no heat or hot water in the entire building, heavy water flow from ceiling/walls and cracked ceilings to failure to inspect the boiler, according to city records. The building is listed as owned by Xing Liang Shen and managed by Capital Home Realty Inc., according to HPD records.

“We are here to let the landlords know that we will see them in court,” said Marmora during a Wednesday morning press conference. “We are going to use every law we have aggressively. These tenants should not be living in uninhabitable conditions.”

Assemblymember Maritza Davila, Community Board 4 chair Robert Comacho and District Manager Celestina Leon joined the press conference outside of 299 Troutman Street with the tenants to show support for their lawsuit. Davila said the building’s condition was reprehensible.

The lawsuit names several groups, from current owners Shen and his wife Irene Zhang Xing, to several past owners as well as the Bank of New York Mellon, Home Heating Oil Corp, the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB), the city’s Environmental Control Board and HPD.

Marmora said that the property’s deed has had liens against it which has complicated the case even further, which is why her group has brought the lawsuit against present and most recent owners. But she said the case was rare because the owner was not shielded by a limited liability company or LLC. Marmora said despite the city being named in the lawsuit, all three city agencies were actively working with tenants and Mobilization for Justice to help bring repair services as quickly as possible.

The lawsuit is asking for a judgment authorizing the city to take over the property: collecting rent and making the necessary repairs authorized by the court. The city would have the authority to file a lien against the property for the cost of the work. Tenants also are seeking an injunction against the property owner, a fine between $1,000 to $10,000 for each unit, compensatory damages of $1,000 for each tenant and reimbursement for attorney’s fees and costs.

On Thursday in the Brooklyn civil court, the property owner arrived without an attorney and no Mandarin interpreter was present so the case was adjourned until August 12.

4 thoughts on “Bushwick Tenants Sue to Force City Takeover of ‘Reprehensible’ Building

  1. The city can’t just take over a property. They will have to buy the property at market value from the owner. Doing that will set a precedence all over the city that slum landlords can leave their buildings in neglect and the city will pay millions for it.

    This lawsuit will pretty much go nowhere. The tenants have a choice to leave, they just dont want to

    • No, the city can take effective control of a property without actually taking possession of it. Mechanisms like Article 7A allow the city to do just about everything but actually own the asset.

      Why do you suppose the tenants have “chosen” not to leave? One wonders if there are so many affordable options out there that they really have a choice.

      • That’s not what they are asking for. They are asking the city to possess it. The city fixing up the building doesn’t give them control of who is in it. You think when the city fixes the building, the landlord will rent the other units to low income people? They can tack on the cost of renovations as a lien but the city only gets that back if the owner sells.

      • Correct.
        Irrespective of what the tenants ask for, the remedy is court supervised receivership under Article 7A.
        If there are tax or water liens, then third party transfer but in no case will the City take ownership of the building.

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