Residents of two Bushwick, Brooklyn, apartment buildings overseen by an affordable-housing nonprofit have long battled rodent and bug infestations because property managers have failed to fix ongoing problems, court papers charge.
Tenants of 676 Willoughby Ave. and 150 Tompkins Ave. are pursuing two separate Brooklyn Housing Court petitions, claiming squalid conditions in their buildings. Hearings in the cases are scheduled for Aug. 2 and July 16.
The companies targeted in the lawsuits are Willoughby Tompkins LP. and Aikens Apts.
Northeast Brooklyn Housing Development Corp. — which, according to its website, pushes for the “preservation, development and management of affordable housing” — is listed as the “managing agent” of these properties in city records.
Gabriel Pacheco and Jeffery Dunston, listed in city records and court papers as officers of these properties, are also being sued. Dunston is referred to as CEO and an officer of the housing corporation on the organization’s website. Northeast Brooklyn is not named as a defendant in tenants’ petitions.
The Legal Aid Society is representing the tenants of both buildings.
Eight residents of 676 Willoughby say the 21-unit building is also rife with leaks, including sewage, it has poor garbage disposal and lax security.
Seven tenants of 150 Willoughby make similar allegations about the conditions of their 20-unit building.
According to Housing Preservation and Development, which monitors conditions in buildings with rent stabilized apartments, the Willoughby and Tompkins sites have 198 open violations and 99 open violations at press time, respectively.
Claudia Harris, 32, claims when she first moved in with her father on Willoughby Ave. seven years ago, conditions were “fair” — but have since declined.
“I had to adopt a cat, because I had a rat the size of a size-13 sneaker in my apartment,” she said. “It came to the point I would not come out of the bedroom when it was dark.”
“I would barricade myself in my room – I was scared,” said Harris, who has a 3-year-old son.
After buying the cat around when her son was born, rodents have stayed away from inside her apartment.
But because “they don’t upkeep with the garbage,” they appear near the waste area, she said.
A persistent leak in the bathroom of her three-bedroom apartment, for which she and her father pay $1,500 per month, “smells like old urine.”
There’s a hole in the ceiling that has long gone without repair, Harris also said.
“I just feel like, when we put in for things to be repaired, we shouldn’t have to call 311,” she said. “Who wants to live like that?”
“My client is doing the very best job they possibly can under the circumstances,” said Seth Denenberg, who represents the properties, Pacheco, Dunston and the developer, Northeast Brooklyn.
Denenberg claimed tenants in these buildings weren’t providing access for repairs — and that Legal Aid wasn’t helping by pursuing litigation.
“We are run by a not-for-profit whose only goal is to maintain, create and improve housing in the Northeast Brooklyn area for people on limited and fixed incomes,” he said. “And we would love to see Legal Aid work with us instead of fighting against us.”
Legal Aid lawyer Meghan Walsh, who is leading the tenants’ lawsuits, said, “We strongly dispute those allegations.”
“The landlord has missed many access dates, usually with little to no response as to why,” Walsh said. “The tenants’ associations in both buildings are, understandably, very frustrated. We have been continuously working with NEBHDCO, through their attorney… and the progress has been very slow.”
Asked for comment, an HPD spokesman said the agency “has been actively involved at these properties, and will continue to support tenants in housing court and use all of the tools at our disposal to hold landlords accountable to ensure that tenants live in safe and secure homes.”