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Brooklyn Tenants Face Landlord In Court, Say He Trashed Apartments To Push Them Out

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Some Brooklyn residents faced their landlord in court Wednesday, charging that he trashed their homes in an effort to drive them out and raise rents.

As CBS 2's John Slattery reported, the tenants, who gave CBS 2 a tour of their apartments last month, say Joel Israel demolished their kitchens and bathrooms in order to renovate, but never did. Their homes were left with gaping holes in floors and walls.

"It's frustrating to see him," said Michele Navas, a Bushwick tenant who attended a housing court hearing Wednesday. "He doesn't care about our situation. He's trying to make settlements on things that doesn't even benefit us at all.

"He's trying to kick us out so he can be able to raise the rent."

Tenants pay less than $700 a month to live in the rent-stabilized apartments. They say Israel knows he can get two or three times more if they move out and he finds new renters.

Israel and his brother, Aaron, own several Bushwick buildings. Ten buildings associated with Joel Israel have been cited for 482 housing code violations, according to city records.

The city has ordered some of the tenants to vacate their homes because they are unsafe.

"What I make is that the landlord doesn't want to do the repairs to my clients' apartment, and we just need someone to do them for them, either the landlord, the city," said attorney Brent Meltzer, who represents the tenants.

Israel's attorney denies the allegations, saying in a statement the owners "intend to make all necessary repairs as quickly, safely and responsibly as possible."

The tenants, accompanied by lawyers and elected officials, held a protest Tuesday outside their building on Linden Street in Bushwick.

"I have two kids," Navas said. "This isn't justice. This shouldn't be."

"This landlord should be sent to jail, and throw the keys away," U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said.

The tenants' attorneys want stronger laws and tougher fines. For now, if landlords ignore court orders and stall, the city must step in and make repairs.

A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated that is exactly what may happen in this case saying, "When necessary, our Housing Department makes emergency repairs to dilapidated buildings."

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