Life-Threatening Mold Brings Bushwick Tenants to File Lawsuit Against Landlords

Georgina Hallowell

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Bushwick residents and their elected officials rallied at 149 Irving Ave. in front of a half-empty apartment building on July 31 in support of a lawsuit demanding improvement of the apartment’s dangerous conditions.

Bold alarming signs saying “Repair our homes” and “Stand for our community” were held high as community members and local councilmembers showed up in support. The residents with the INK Tenant Coalition complain of leaks, rodent infestation, electrical issues, and vacant units filled with dangerous mold and garbage.

The three remaining tenants living at the six-unit Bushwick property are demanding improvement and have filed a lawsuit aided by TakeRoot Justice attorneys against INK Property Group for negligence. The empty units are mold-ridden, worn down, and padlocked shut. 

In 2017, Stabilizing NYC created a list of New York’s 10 worst landlords and INK Property Group appeared on the list. Though they were one of the lesser-known property groups on the list, its property’s deplorable physical condition stood out securing them a spot on the shameful record.

Ink Property Group caught the attention of St. Nick’s Alliance, a community development organization servicing North Brooklyn residents. Immediately, the organization decided to reach out to the tenants of 149 Irving Ave. With the help of TakeRoot Justice’s legal support, they joined forces to organize a rally and filed a lawsuit against the property owners. 

Councilmember Rafael Espinal at rally.

“When a tenant goes through a housing issue, the majority of the time the tenant thinks it’s a personal issue. They feel isolated like ‘I’m the only one going through this issue’ and having events like these proves no one is alone in this,” said Rolando Guzman, St. Nick’s Deputy Director of Community Preservation, Rolando Guzman 

The residents of 149 Irving Ave. say they’ve called their property management company, INK Property Group, and notified them of the issues taking place. They’ve also previously reached out to city agencies for them to intervene concerning the deplorable conditions of their apartment building. According to Guzman, the city visited the building not too long ago and walked through the apartments resulting in the issuing of countless violations.

The reality is a lot of long-time tenants in Bushwick are being displaced from their homes. We want to highlight what’s going on in that building and also engage community members to see that they are not alone and whenever a tenant has any housing issues, there are organizations and agencies that are there to help,” said Guzman.

Linden Miller, a TakeRoot Justice staff attorney is representing two of the three remaining tenants involved in the lawsuit against INK Property Group. 

“We filed a lawsuit in housing court asking the court to appoint an administrator. We argue that the landlord has done such a bad job, so we need to take the building out of their control and put it under the control of an administrator,” said Miller. The administrator then will collect the rent and put it toward repairs in the building.

Neighbors and community members at rally at 149 Irving Ave.

Although Brooklyn neighborhoods are constantly changing and rent skyrockets, the rent of this property will not rise simply because of improvements. Whilst major capital improvements benefiting all tenants can be funded by increasing one’s rent, in this case they are asking for basic improvements that the landlord is required to provide by law.

“It wouldn’t increase the rent of the tenants for them to remediate massive amounts of mold, to fix the electrical system and leaks. We argue that basic needs are required,” said Miller.

According to city records, the 149 Irving Ave. property has nine complaints, 29 Department of Building violations, and 13 environmental control violations. The last few complaints all include electrical, plumbing, and boiler issues. While the current lawsuit isn’t seeking rent credit for the rent paid to live in an unsafe environment, the tenants could pursue such relief. At the present time, providing a safe environment for these residents is at the top of everyone’s priority.

“We want the tenants to get relief from housing, that’s number one. And ultimately, we are hoping that the city is going to be more proactive in enforcing the correct housing code and housing laws,” said Guzman.

All Photos courtesy Elise Goldin / St. Nick’s Alliance.

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