Asserting their basic right to healthy living conditions, around 30 tenants of 1109 Manhattan Avenue and 66 Clay Street, better known as the Greenpoint Hotel, have filed a lawsuit against the building’s owner Jay Deutchman. The tenants of the single room occupancy (SRO) claim the landlord does not provide heat and hot water and that the building is overrun with rats, roaches and other vermin. Their lawsuit, which had its first day in court on Wednesday March 6th, joins a second suit filed by the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). That action seeks repairs and a financial judgment for the more than 500 violations issued against the building. That number is expected to jump significantly following upcoming inspections by the City.
The City’s suit is not its first against the Greenpoint Hotel. In 2009, HPD brought a case to address the horrible conditions in the building. Despite getting an order compelling the landlord to make repairs, many were left undone and others completed so sloppily that the underlying problems quickly returned. Even after he was held in contempt of court for failing to cure the conditions, the landlord did not make the improvements.
According to tenant advocates St. Nicks Alliance and North Brooklyn Development Corporation, the Greenpoint Hotel has become virtually unlivable. In addition to the absence of basic services, until this week, the building lacked a locking door, leaving tenants vulnerable to thieves.
Erick Hargraves, who has lived in the building for three, years pointed to the coats and towels he put up against his window to keep out the cold air. “Conditions are poor,” he said. “There’s no heat and barely any hot water, and there’s lots of rats, garbage, bedbugs; it’s disgusting in here. Nobody should have to live like this.”
Four year Greenpoint Hotel resident Shannon Colwell has put foil around his locker to keep rats out of his $210 per month apartment. “There are rats all over the building,” he asserted. “When you come out into the hall, you have to be careful to look both ways, like you’re crossing the road, to see if there’s a rat crossing the hallway.” And yet, Colwell adds, “The landlord has refused to do repairs. The lawyers and the City have told him to make repairs and he still won’t do anything.”
MFY Legal Services, which is representing the tenants in their suit, agrees. “What we have seen are terrible conditions,” said attorney Tanya Kessler. “The landlord has allowed the building to fall into disrepair. All parts of the building are in terrible condition. We’re moving forward and doing everything we can to force the landlord to improve conditions.”
Councilmember Steve Levin, who has monitored the building for several years, noted its deterioration since Deutchman assumed ownership. “He has not shown any regard for human decency by taking care of the buildings,” Levin declared. “He let it get that way on purpose.”
Hargraves wants to be compensated for personal items which he said were stolen as a result of not having a lock on the front door, claiming that his room has been broken into three times. “Other than that, I’d like to see better living for the rest of my fellow tenants. Nobody deserves to live like this with bugs and rats and garbage and bad bathrooms and things like that. We pay our rent, we should get what we deserve, and this is not it.”
According to Kessler, Hargraves and the rest of the tenants shouldn’t expect conditions to improve soon. She noted that these cases tend to move slowly. The next step will be a response by the landlord to a motion filed by the attorneys, which is due next month.
Type your name and email address below, then click "Submit" to be added to our spam-free email list.