Tenants from 920 Bushwick Avenue, 946 Bushwick Avenue and 1075 Greene Avenue formed a group called the People’s Garden of Bushwick to fight their new landlords, Graham Jones and Gregory Jones of GRJ LLC, a Manhattan-based developer.
The company bought the three buildings last summer, tenants said.
When the developers allegedly offered buyouts, some tenants sought help with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A. According to staff attorney Samuel Chiera, the landlords either weren’t willing to make repairs or only offered to make “cosmetic repairs to fool city agencies to lift violations.”
“The landlords started construction in the buildings designed to make tenants’ lives so miserable that it encourages them to leave,” Chiera said. “The city has come in, they’ve found harassment. They issued multiple stop work orders.
“These tenants are not willing to sit down with targets on their backs,” he added. “They’re here to stay.”
According to Department of Buildings (DOB) data, 920 Bushwick Avenue has a total of eight open violations, while 946 Bushwick Avenue has five open DOB violations and 13 open violations with the Environmental Control Board (ECB).
Tenants have also alleged harassment from the buildings’ superintendent. Mildred Garcia, a longtime tenant at 1075 Greene Avenue, said she wants him gone.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a super to be cursing at tenants,” Garcia said. “The landlord still has him working and I see him constantly in the hallways.”
Garcia, who has lived in the building for most of her life, said tiles in her bathroom are breaking and walls are cracking because of the constant construction.
“The situation has been getting worse,” she said.
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A is representing about 30 tenants in housing court, according to the group.
In one federal fair housing case, the attorneys successfully forced the developer to fix a broken elevator in two months and provide accommodations for disabled tenants at 946 Bushwick Avenue.
Chiera alleges all of the activity by the landlord is designed to kick out rent-stabilized and primarily low-income tenants to turn “a massive profit.”
“This is the nonsense that continues to happen here in Bushwick and other communities that look like Bushwick,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso. “It’s long-term tenants being pushed out by greedy landlords.”
Reynoso said the City Council and City Hall has to “step up” to pass laws that protect tenants from harassment. The council is currently considering a slate of 12 bills, called the “Stand for Tenant Safety” package, that would reform the DOB and make construction-as-harassment illegal.
Reynoso is sponsoring two of the bills, which would increase the penalties for work without a permit and increase penalties for violation of a stop work order.
“We’re not doing enough,” Reynoso said. “It’s about time the city pays attention to this building, that the landlord hears everyone standing behind us and that we stop the nonsense now.”
Shekar Krishnan, an attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, said what’s happening at these buildings is “the story of Bushwick today.”
“A landlord with no connection to the community, who cares little about his tenants who have been here for generations, comes in and starts doing construction while they’re living here,” he said.
Krishnan vowed to continue fighting the landlords alongside the tenants.
“We are going to fight back every step of the way until the landlord either respects our rights and our community or he leaves because he can’t put up with us,” he said. “That’s the choice our landlord faces today.”