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Brooklyn Tenants Suing Landlord Looking to Dump Massive Portfolio

By Gwynne Hogan | June 13, 2017 3:39pm
 Tenants of four Silvershore Properties rallied outside of Brooklyn Housing Court before filing separate lawsuits against their landlord.
Tenants of four Silvershore Properties rallied outside of Brooklyn Housing Court before filing separate lawsuits against their landlord.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Tenants of a Brooklyn landlord currently trying to sell off what's billed as the second largest collection of buildings ever up for grabs in New York City say that landlord has left them to live in squalor — without heat, hot water or gas and surrounded by vermin, leaks and mold.

The long-time residents, who turned down recent buyout offers in four buildings owned by Silvershore Properties, rallied outside Brooklyn Housing Court before filing four separate lawsuits against their landlord Tuesday morning.

Tenants at 196 Kingsland Ave. near Driggs Avenue in Greenpoint have been living without gas since January, according to the lawsuit.

Marjorie Tapia, 36, who has lived in the apartment her whole life, said that she can't get through to the management company about much needed repairs.

But she said, "they have no issue calling to ask us if we want to take a buyout."

She's been offered buyout offers four times, including a December offer of $150,000, she said.

Residents of 318 Humboldt St. near Powers Street say they spent much of the winter without heat and are now coping with a mice infestation.

"I spend about $100 a month on glue traps on top of rent," said Felecia Donowski, 43. She has to put out six traps a night every night of the month because they fill up so quickly, she said.

Tenants are asking a judge to take away control of the buildings from Silvershore and appoint an independent administrator to make repairs.

"With the sale...it seems like they've really taken their hands off the wheel," said Sherief Gaber, an attorney with the Urban Justice Center, who's representing tenants in two Sunset Park buildings and one Williamsburg one in housing court. "The level of neglect has just deepened."

Donowski's neighbor Nicholae Serban, 44, had to jerry rig a contraption in his mother's bathroom after her ceiling caved in and was spewing water for months on end.

"The ceiling fell. There was water in the bathroom pouring out for six months," Serban said.

He called the super over and over again to try to get the leak fixed but eventually screwed a tub to the ceiling and hooked a hose into it to train the water. The landlord finally repaired the leak six months later after he started logging complaints with 311, he said.

Tenants in two adjoining Sunset Park buildings at 5416 and 5422 4th Ave. near 55th Street say they can't get the smallest of repairs done. They added that what was once a tranquil inner courtyard has been turned into a trash heap.

Three of the four buildings are among 57 properties that Silvershore is currently trying to sell off en masse. They're being advertised by the broker Cushman and Wakefield

One of the "highlights" of the package of buildings, according to Cushman and Wakefield's advertisement for the buildings is: "significant upside available in non-renovated units, which represent roughly 1/3 of the total residential units" — broker lingo for buildings that have rent-stabilized tenants in them and have the potential for higher rents if those tenants leave.

The broker didn't return a request for comment immediately.

►READ MORE: 'Landlords Are People Too,' Says Brooklyn Property Owner Sued for Neglect

Tenant organizer Rolando Guzman with St. Nicks Alliance, hoped prospective buyers would take note that residents are ready to fight to protect their homes.

"We want to make sure prospective buyers know that tenants are organized and they're not going to put up with this anymore," Guzman said, outside Brooklyn Housing Court Tuesday morning.

Silvershore Properties, a company backed by partners Jason Silverstein and David Shorenstein, own about 150 properties throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, according to their LinkedIn profile.

While Shorenstein described having "no money" in a New York Times interview when talking about the company's humble origins in 2009, the 57 buildings they're now trying to sell off rake in about $12.7 million in profits a year, according to Cushman and Wakefield.

A woman at Silvershore's Property's management office who declined to give her name said the company properly maintains all their properties.

"We take care of our buildings," she said. "There's no neglecting in any of our buildings."

►READ MORE: 'Landlords Are People Too,' Says Brooklyn Property Owner Sued for Neglect