Streetview of 1214 Dean Street © 2022 Google Maps
Mayor Eric Adams and New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced a $2.25 million settlement against Gennaro Brooks-Church and Loretta Gendville, who attempted to illegally evict tenants at their Brooklyn property during the pandemic in violation of the state’s moratorium, and reportedly ran an illegal hotel operation over the course of several years. By terms of the settlement, the property located at 1214 Dean Street in Crown Heights will be turned over to the city and transformed into affordable housing, with the previous owners paying $250,000 in fines.
The massive settlement is the largest monetary award the city has ever received from a case against an illegal short-term rental operator, and the case represents the city’s first-ever enforcement of the “Unlawful Eviction Law.”
The settlement requires landlords Brooks-Church and Gendville to transfer 1214 Dean Street, valued at more than $2 million, to an owner designated by the city for use as affordable housing. They also must pay $250,000 in fines to the city and state and agree to not conduct future illegal short-term rental activity anywhere in the city. The city has also provided former tenants with significant recovery funds for the damages and trauma they suffered due to their landlords.
Adams said, “these landlords may have been sending a loving and peaceful message out publicly, but they were kicking tenants to the curb privately. Safe, affordable housing is not only vital to the city’s survival and public safety but is a basic human right, which is why my administration will never hesitate to stand up for tenants who are illegally harmed.”
“Today’s settlement sends a clear message to slumlords everywhere in the city: Cruel and illegal behavior will not be tolerated, and, as long as I am mayor, you will never get away with putting tenants at risk.”
The illegal renting activity began in January 2016 lasting until at least the summer of 2020, generating $1.4 million in revenue for the landlord duo. The two placed 83 different listings on Airbnb, tricking close to 5,600 guests and preventing 14 homes across nine buildings in Brooklyn from housing permanent tenants.
In July 2020, the landlords violated a law that barred property owners from engaging in self-help evictions while subsequently violating the state moratorium on evictions instated during the pandemic when they removed tenants’ possessions from the residences and changed the locks.
The city first began investigating the case that same month and sent a cease and desist letter to the landlords. In November of 2020, the Law Department’s Tenant Protection Unit brought its first lawsuit against the landlords, under the city’s Unlawful Eviction Law.
“During a period of unprecedented global struggle, Brooks-Church and Gendville callously forced New Yorkers from their homes,” James said. “We have long seen these types of harmful housing scams, especially in Central Brooklyn, where people make a business out of unfairly and inhumanely pushing others out of their homes. Let this serve as a warning: any landlord who mistreats and tries to unlawfully evict renters will face the full force of my office and the law.”
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Tags : affordable housing, coronavirus, covid-19, Eric Adams, eviction, housing policy, letitia james
Neighborhoods : Crown Heights