A Ditmas Park [Brooklyn, New York] landlord is attempting to harass his rent-stabilized tenants out of their apartments by failing to keep heat and hot water on in winter, allowing vermin and mold to run rampant, and refusing to keep the property safe and secure for kids, claim residents who filed a suit against the owner, Sholom Rubashkin, on Tuesday.
The Brooklyn Paper reports:
A Ditmas Park [Brooklyn, New York] landlord is attempting to harass his rent-stabilized tenants out of their apartments by failing to keep heat and hot water on in winter, allowing vermin and mold to run rampant, and refusing to keep the property safe and secure for kids, claim residents who filed a suit against the owner on Tuesday.
“I feel like I’m being preyed upon to be disposed of,” said Susanne Saldarriaga, one of 27 residents suing their landlord Sholom Rubashkin in housing court in order to force him to fix the alleged problems in their apartment block.
The city at the beginning of the year enrolled the building at 410 E. 17th St., between Cortelyou and Dorchester roads, in its so-called alternative enforcement program, which singles out the 250 most rotten residential properties in New York and monitors their owners’ progress towards correcting housing violations.
It removed the property from the program in June after Rubashkin performed repairs, but the tenants claim he did a shoddy job and the building still has more than 200 open violations — including leaky pipes, peeling lead paint, exposed wiring, broken locks, and mice infestations — which they say are making their lives miserable and their homes dangerous.
The residents also claim their heat and hot water cut out numerous times between November last year and August this year — which the suit alleges is a result of Rubashkin failing to pay the gas bill.
“We’ve had no hot water for years and very little heat in the winter,” said Susanne Saldarriaga, who has lived in the building alongside husband Heriberto for 32 years. “He neglects the plumbing so badly that we have constant water leaks.”
Muniz claims that bad wiring in her unit causes fuses to blow on a daily basis, creating a fire hazard and leaving her without power to run her 6-year-old athematic daughter’s electric inhaler.
“Many times the sockets have exploded and I am scared that one day there will be a fire inside,” said Muniz, who is raising five kids in her apartment.
But Rubashkin says he’s no slumlord — and that the city clearing him from the alternate enforcement program proves his building is in sound shape.
“This is not a slum building,” he said. “If the building was warranted to be on [the alternative enforcement program], it would still be on it.”
The landlord claims that he is being unfairly targeted by his tenants, who used their high-level connections to subject him to the housing department’s punitive program.
“The reason why we got there is because you have a lot of vocal tenants, who know people in better places than I do,” said Rubashkin.
But the residents claim he is deliberately withholding the repairs and utilities to force older, rent-stabilized tenants out so he can jack up the rent on their units.
“Whenever I complain about the heat, he says, ‘Why don’t you move?’ ” said Muniz, “He wants me to move. He said he’s losing a lot of money, and could make a lot more if he got somebody new to move in.”…
Junior is the nephew of convicted felon former Agriprocessors VP Sholom Rubashkin (of cattle-throat-ripping, exploiting of undocumented workers, and bank fraud infamy) and the grandson of Aaron Rubashkin.
All the above named Rubashkins are, of course, members of the prominent Chabad hasidic Rubashkin family.
Update 12:44 pm CDT – Gothamist has a much more thorough report on what the Rubashkin family has apparently done to these tenants, including alleged lead paint poisoning that, a parent says, left her 5-year-old with learning disabilities. Aaron Rubashkin, the Rubashkin family patriarch and Sholom Junior's grandfather, bought the building in 1987 – the same year he purchased the infamous Postville, Iowa slaughterhouse he renamed Agriprocessors. The recent repairs made by Sholom Rubashkin, Junior to the building allegedly are cheap fixes that covered over the actual problems rather than fixing them.
The Gothamist report is very good but has one small error I noticed. It says the federal government could not prove child labor charges against Sholom Rubashkin (Senior).
The fact is, the State of Iowa couldn't prove the charges because its law was drafted in such a way as to leave open the interpretation that to be guilty, a CEO would have to know the name of each child employed and have definite proof they were underage but kept them employed anyway in order to be convicted. It was an extreme interpretation of the law, but the judge took it and Rubashkin got off.
In response, Iowa's legislature changed to law to rule out that extreme interpretation so people who victimize children could never use it to escape punishment again.
The federal government did not pursue immigration or child labor charges against Rubashkin after it convicted him on multiple counts of financial fraud and obstruction. Rubashkin was already serving a 27-year prison sentence and, as is common in cases like this, the federal government chose not to spend the time and money for ta second prosecution that would likely have added only a year or two to an already extremely long prison sentence.
Read the Gothamist report here.