Owner of over 50 Brooklyn buildings under scrutiny
According to a recent Patch.com article, several tenants of 70 Prospect Park West—a Brooklyn pre-war apartment building— received notice that their market-rate leases, which were set to expire this summer, would not be renewed and that they would have to leave their apartments. Anh-thu Nguyen, a tenant who has been in the building for 11 years, observed, “It was like, ‘Oh, we're all getting these’… It's very jarring... especially in the middle of a pandemic.”
In response, residents decided to band together to present a unified voice to Greenbrook Partners, the building’s owner, who acquired this property together with some 30 other buildings, last year. Patch also revealed that the non-renewal notification wasn’t unique to the tenants of 70 PPW.
Apparently, Greenbrook set out to buy buildings with a mix of fair market and rent-stabilized units (before the enactment of HSTPA, Greenbrook would mostly target rent-stabilized buildings; but the rent laws got considerably more pro-tenant in 2019). The company, it seems, would first drive out market-rate tenants by serving notices similar to the one Nguyen received. Then, when there were only rent-stabilized tenants left, the company would undertake major construction work “in a way that's designed to be really difficult to live with,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. Face with constant noise, vibrations and other disturbances, many tenants would be left with little choice but to leave.
“There's a reason to think that they're doing this in every building they're buying,” remarked Lander. This strategy has supposedly been lucrative for Greenbrook. Nguyen observed that one of the units at 70 PPW was last rented out at around $4,000, but when that tenant was forced out, that same unit, after some renovations, returned to the market with a monthly price-tag of $8,000.
70 PPW tenants are said to be weighing their legal options, and believe that some market rate units were illegally destabilized by the former owner. While Greenbrook is already facing a lawsuit, per the article, for failing to make repairs to another Brooklyn building, Lander is also hopeful that the “Good Cause Eviction” bill, currently being considered by the state legislature, will be another tool to end this kind of harassment.
Watch this space for further developments.