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CBS 2 Exclusive: Complaints Mount Against Brooklyn Landlords Accused Of Wrecking Apartments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The lives of some Bushwick, Brooklyn residents have been turned upside down, after their apartments were left in ruins and they said their landlords were to blame.

On Thursday, CBS 2 reported the story of Silveria Hormigo, a mother of four who said her apartment at 324 Central Ave. in Brooklyn was practically demolished by wrecking crews when she was not home.

Two families living at 98 Linden St. in Brooklyn said the same happened to them, with bathrooms and kitchens demolished and left impossible to use.

As CBS 2's Sonia Rincon reported Friday, the elusive landlords -- brothers Joel and Aaron Israel -- have dozens of complaints and pending cases against them. They stand accused of finding ways to force out longtime tenants of rent stabilized apartments.

Ten Brooklyn buildings associated with Joel Israel have a total of 482 housing code violations between them, according to city records.

The tenants CBS 2 has heard from said they had no warning.

CBS 2 has been trying to contact the Israel brothers for weeks. One of their attorneys finally returned a call Thursday, and promised to produce proof that Hormigo had failed to pay rent.

But so far, he not done so, and he said the Israel brothers would not be available, Rincon reported.

Carmen Bonilla of Bushwick Housing and Legal Assistance has stepped in to assist Hormigo and some of the other tenants, and said the landlords belong in jail for what they're doing.

"Because if this landlord does not go to jail, and then other landlords are going to think they can get away with this, and other tenants are going to live in these kind of situations," Bonilla said. "And we're going to be knocking out the rent stabilization and the rent control law, and there's nowhere for the poor people to go."

One of the cases involving 98 Linden St. was heard in Brooklyn Housing Court Friday. The Israel brothers were not in attendance, and they sent a different attorney from the one who talked to CBS 2.

Rincon reported the Israel brothers almost never show up in court. A local city councilman trying to help the Bushwick tenants said he would love to talk to the Israel brothers, but he can't find them either.

Legal Aid attorney Brent Meltzer was in court for the tenants, and said their plight is actually part of a bigger problem.

"The Israel brothers are probably the most egregious, but we've definitely seen an uptick in the last 6, 8 months of lots of tenants coming into our offices whose buildings are being destroyed around them," Meltzer said.

In these cases, he said, all the demolition was done without permits.

The real issue, according to Meltzer, is economics and housing affordability. Rents in Bushwick in particular have been doubling in the last few years.

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