Leaks, excessive debris, a lack of heat and hot water, broken front doors – rent-stabilized tenants in Greenpoint say their landlord is trying to push them out of their homes with constant construction projects that have resulted in poor and unsafe living conditions.
The construction-related issues at 97 and 99 Clay St., a cluster of four buildings with a combined 25 apartments, have prompted a mass exodus of tenants, according to George Manatos. Now, only five tenants remain.
“It’s like a ghost town,” Manatos, a resident of 97 Clay St. for the last four years, said on Wednesday. “The five of us have banded together and check in with one another often.”
Since renovations began a little more than a year ago, Manatos said it’s become apparent that their landlord, LJC Towers LLC, is using construction as a form of tenant harassment. The buildings have nearly 60 Department of Buildings complaints and dozens of violations, including several open “work without a permit” violations, city records show.
“As reasonable tenants, we don't expect construction to go unnoticed and be serene, but it has been consistently made clear to us that our owners are using construction to make us feel unwanted and for our existence to feel unsustainable and unsafe,” Manatos said. “Requests [related to] our safety and well-being are met with consistent negligence and disdain.”
The construction has left common areas “filthy,” dust builds up on every surface inside apartments and the courtyard is filled with garbage, according to the tenants. Manatos said the front door to 97 Clay St. didn’t lock properly for two months and missing mailboxes have resulted in inconsistent mail delivery.
A representative for LJC Towers LLC said Thursday that the renovations will eventually improve the quality of life for residents in the buildings and that the landlord has taken steps to work with tenants.
“Under the supervision of city agencies, we have done everything we can to reduce the discomfort of the residents,” the spokesman said. “We are committed to finishing the necessary upgrades to the buildings as soon as possible.”
On Monday, Manatos and the other tenants held a rally demanding an end to the construction outside of 199 Lee Ave. in Brooklyn, the address listed for LJC Towers LLC. In reality, the address is a storefront that houses hundreds of mailboxes for LLCs that own and manage properties in the area.
The location was chosen to highlight how difficult it is for the tenants to reach their landlord.
“Many of our requests fall upon deaf ears, unless they want something from us, or the city has put direct pressure on them,” Manatos said. “For instance, we went over two weeks without functional heat at the end of 2018, when the temperatures we near freezing. When HPD sent their emergency unit, we had our heat up and running within an hour.”
Manatos said he and the other tenants file 311 complaints two to three times a week. The city has recently stepped up its response to their complaints, he said, but resolving the issues has been more difficult than he anticipated.
He also credited his four remaining neighbors, one of whom is in his 80s and wheelchair-bound, for their efforts in holding their landlord accountable.
“This entire process would have been far more taxing had it not been for my neighbors,” Manatos said. “We simply love our community and the lives we've built here. We are simply asking to live here peacefully, which is both our right and the service we pay for.”