On October 5, 2016, the long-term tenants of 300 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint celebrated their return home after having been displaced for almost three years at the hands of their landlords, Joel and Aaron Israel. They were welcomed home by representatives from Brooklyn A, St. Nicks Alliance, and the City of New York. Each of the tenants was presented with a letter from Mayor Bill de Blasio, recognizing their courage in fighting for their homes.
In December 2013, after an escalating pattern of harassment including buyout offers, neglect of building repairs, and reckless demolition, the cellar of 300 Nassau was vandalized. The boiler, hot water heater, gas meters, electric meters, and the main water line were all destroyed, and with the building’s services rendered inoperable, the City of New York declared the building uninhabitable and ordered the tenants to be vacated from their homes.
Around the time that 300 Nassau was destroyed, other North Brooklyn buildings operated by the Israels suffered similar fates. At 98 Linden Street, the Israels destroyed the bathrooms and kitchens of several apartments leaving families living in ruins for more than a year. A tenant at 324 Central Avenue was illegally evicted, and while she was locked out the Israels demolished her apartment, forcing her to be vacated from her apartment.
Working with Adam Meyers of Brooklyn A and tenant organizers from St. Nicks Alliance, the tenants at 300 Nassau brought an Article 7A proceeding in Brooklyn Housing Court, asking the court to remove the Israels from management of the building and to appoint an independent administrator to manage repairs. In January 2015, and after an extended trial, the tenants won their case and the court appointed an administrator for the building. With financing from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the repairs at the building were finally completed in August 2016, and the tenants returned home in September.
The Israel’s actions were widely reported upon, and were emblematic of a new model of tenant harassment characterized by landlords using unsafe construction and demolition in conjunction with city-issued vacate orders to force tenants out of their rent-regulated apartments. In the months following their objectionable actions, the Israels were issued subpoenas by the New York State Tenant Protection Unit; they were criminally indicted on charges related to fraud, grand larceny and tenant harassment by the late District Attorney Ken Thompson-to whom we will always be grateful for his work on this case as well as for making it a priority in his office to protect low-income tenants from the criminal acts of landlords meant to force them from their homes. Their criminal acts led to the formation of the North Brooklyn Housing Taskforce, allowing community advocates to coordinate more closely with elected officials and city and state agencies to address tenant protection issues in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick. The Israels’ criminal trial is scheduled to begin November 7, 2016.
Check out some of the media coverage of the 300 Nassau tenants returning home: