NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –Some Brooklyn renters say their landlord tore up floors and walls to force them out. Now, after a year-long battle, tenants are celebrating a legal victory after a housing court judge ordered the owner to make crucial building repairs.
The building at 300 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint has been boarded up, uninhabitable for over a year. But former tenants recently got word that their landlord, Joel Israel, is being court-ordered to complete a host of repairs that will allow them to return home.
"This has been the best news in the last 13 months," Catalina Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo has lived in the building for 10 years. She and the other families in the six-unit building were forced out in December 2013—something they said Israel orchestrated by refusing to do any building maintenance.
"Through the entire winter, we had no heat, the mice infestation," Hidlago told CBS2's Elise Finch. "I had mice droppings in my kid's crib, all over my kid's clothes."
Hidalgo and her neighbors pay between $600 and $1,100 a month for their rent-stabilized apartments. The going rate in the neighborhood is more than twice that. That's why their attorney says the landlord wanted them out.
"One way that criminal landlords have been trying to get rent-regulated tenants out is by provoking vacate orders. If they neglect the building or if they deliberately sabotage the building, the city is going to come in and issue a vacate order and that basically does their job for them," Adam Meyers said, with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A.
CBS2 first uncovered the horrible conditions at properties owned by Israel when they went inside his building at 98 Linden Street in Bushwick. Apartments were partially-gutted to make way for renovations that never happened.
Israel faces a number of lawsuits as a result, but the residents on Nassau Avenue just won their case in housing court.
"It brings me hope. I was hopeless at first going through this entire case. I felt like we didn't have any voices, like he was going to get the best of everyone and now we can say justice has been served," Hidalgo said.
A spokesperson for the landlord told CBS2, "My client's intention has always been to fix the building so their tenants can safely return to their homes."
Now, a third party will make sure it gets done as quickly as possible, Finch reported.
The city will put up the money to make all the required repairs. That money will be transformed into a lien against the property that the landlord will ultimately have to pay.
Repairs are expected to take six to 12 months.
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