By Kathleen Culliton - PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS, BROOKLYN
It's "How The Landlord Stole Christmas."
Barry Hers threatened to sue formerly homeless tenants, currently facing eviction after losing a lawsuit against him, if they held a kids' Christmas party in the lobby of 250 Clarkson Ave. Friday morning, advocates said.
"We were going to do a little something for kids because the whole year has been so stressful for them," said Flatbush Tenant Coalition organizer Estefania Trujillo.
"The tenants have gone through so much. It was just going to be a nice little event for the families."
Hers' attorney Nativ Winiarsky contacted the Legal Aid Society, which is representing the tenants as they battle to hold onto their homes in the former cluster site, to request more information about the party Thursday afternoon, Trujillo said.
"We'll just have Santa, have gifts in the lobby and leave," the advocates told Hers' attorneys. "We were going to do a little something for kids."
But Winiarsky told residents the party would violate a standing court order, issued after a Christmas party in 2015, which bans any event that might block the entrance to 250 Clarkson Ave., the attorney said.
"It's a fire hazard," Winiarsky said. "There can be no gathering in the lobby."
Said Trujillo, "It's frustrating that we can't even do something nice."
The move comes amid a complex legal battle that has left 60 formerly homeless families unsure whether they'll be evicted from their Brooklyn homes over the holidays, said advocates.
A judge ruled in November that the residents were not protected by rent stabilization laws, and therefore could be evicted, but Legal Aid Society attorneys requested a stay on the decision on Dec. 17 so they could file an appeal.
"The judge reserved his decision for a later, unspecified date," advocates said. "The families don't know whether they will be evicted during the holiday season."
Rather than risk yet another day in court, the Flatbush Tenants Coalition will host the holiday party Friday evening in their Washington Avenue offices, Trujillo said.
The group spent hours Thursday night dashing between Hers' multiple Brooklyn buildings, posting fliers to let residents know about the change of plans.
What hasn't changed is the party itself. There will be pizza, Santa, presents for the kids, and a much-needed break from their ongoing battle for their homes, she said.
"This is gonna be moment when we don't have to think about the case," said Trujillo. "We're just going celebrate what we have been able to do so far."