Justice may finally be coming for the long-suffering tenants of a building in our area.
Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program announced today that it has filed suit against “infamous” landlord Moshe Piller on behalf of 12 long-time tenants at 2010 Newkirk Avenue. The tenants “have been victims of a years-long campaign of harassment designed to force them from their rent-regulated apartments,” the organization said in a statement.
The suit was filed late yesterday at Kings County Supreme Court. You can read the complaint here.
The complaint seeks the return of tens of thousands of dollars in rent overcharges that Legal Services says tenants paid, an injunction prohibiting Piller from harassing his tenants in the future, a separate injunction barring Piller from making “false, deceptive and misleading representations” to tenants and in housing court, along with statutory and punitive damages.
Moshe Piller did not respond to our request for comment.
“This case is crucial for all tenants,” said Flatbush Tenant Coalition (FTC) leader and steering committee member Loraine Delamore. “So many tenants have experienced overcharges while they are struggling to pay their rent.” The 2010 Newkirk Avenue tenants association is a member of FTC.
“The fact that this landlord could get away with these overcharges for so long means the system is not paying attention to what happens to us,” Delamore added.
Piller, named New York’s Fourth Worst Landlord by the Office of the Public Advocate in 2015, has been issued “dozens” of rent reduction orders by New York State’s Division of Homes and Community Renewal dating back to 1993, according to Legal Services NYC.
The orders were issued for a variety of reasons, from decreased services to problems such as “clogged and backed up pipes, buckling and collapsed ceilings, unsealed windows, leaks, roach infestations and sinking floors.”
“Though demonstrably aware of the reduction orders,” the statement from Legal Services NYC said today, “Piller has continued to charge his tenants thousands upon thousands of dollars in illegal rent, and tried to evict them when they failed to pay. His actions constitute both deceptive business practices and harassment, as they were intended to cause the tenants to surrender or waive rights in relation to their homes.”
“We are filing this case to let our landlord, and all other landlords, know they cannot do this to people and get away with it,” said Jean Alleyne, a 73-year old tenant and FTC leader who is a plaintiff in the case.
“We will teach Moshe Piller and other landlords who are doing this a lesson. We live in a building with bathroom leaks, cracking floors, mice, rats, no working stoves for weeks. And he steals our money and takes us to court saying we owe him more.
These landlords are robbing people and they know they are doing it. They don’t do it with a gun, but it’s robbery, plain and simple.
Worst of all they are robbing poor people—people who don’t have a lot of money and have families to feed. Moshe Piller should go to jail for stealing from our families and for stealing from New York.”
Piller overcharged his low-income tenants, “many of whom are elderly and limited English-proficient,” nearly $90,000 in illegal rent since 2010, stated Rachel Bash, Staff Attorney at Legal Services NYC.
“We’re seeking compensation for our clients,” Bash added, “but also to show Piller that he cannot continue to defraud his tenants and then illegally harass them by continually dragging them into court for rent they never owed to begin with.”
In February, Legal Services NYC’s Brooklyn program filed a separate complaint in Housing Court to force Piller to make scores of repairs at 2010 Newkirk Avenue. That case goes to trial Wednesday, said Aga Trojniak of the Flatbush Tenants Coalition.
(A similar complaint was filed by Legal Services against Piller in December, 2015 on behalf of tenants in a building he owns in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx.)
While some repairs have been made at 2010 Newkirk Avenue, a “significant number” still need to be done, said Trojniak. A key — and ongoing — issue is whether the repairs will be done properly, she added.
Trojniak described the case of a tenant at 2010 Newkirk Avenue who has had a leak in her ceiling for four years. The leak is “repaired,” and then repeatedly returns, she said.
While the HPD [the City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development] has issued repeated violations at 2010 Newkirk Avenue, the FTC has tried to get them more substantively involved with the problems in the building. The HPD should be “forcing the landlord to do quality, permanent repairs that address the root of the problem, instead of doing patchwork,” Trojniak stated.
“A housing agency tasked with enforcing the city’s housing code shouldn’t allow a landlord to repeatedly claim a leak is fixed, just to have it return over and over again for more than four years,” she argued.
“There is a very clear lack of enforcement…It’s much too easy for landlords to get violations off the [public] record,” Trojniak said.