Three months after e-bike batteries sparked a fire in a 40-unit rent-stabilized building in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 39 families remain displaced, moving from shelter to shelter or living with relatives.
Our correspondent, April Xu, went to a town hall with the families this week, where the families lodge complaints against their landlords. They said Baozhen Lin, Moshe Kraus and their management companies, 702 Plaza LLC, M&D Heritage Group LLC — “do not talk with anyone and never show up.”
“He is like a ghost”: Some of the tenants are unsure exactly which of the two men is their landlord. One said the landlords aren’t responding to his requests to access his apartment after the fire, so he hasn’t been able to retrieve important items, including a car key, his daughter’s birth certificate, and bank checks.
According to a legal complaint, the landlords told Brooklyn tenants to sign and notarize an “Access Agreement” after the fire that permits the management company to enter into the apartments and change the locks. The owners allegedly didn’t provide tenants with keys to these new locks, and say it’s unclear when their apartments will be cleaned and repaired.
Agreements only offered in English: Most of the building’s tenants are Chinese-speaking or Spanish-speaking immigrants. Still, the tenants say the landlords only offered agreements in English for them to sign, leaving some unsure of what the they agreed to.
Now, the tenants — who are now staying with relatives or in shelters, including in Harlem and Brownsville — are taking legal action.
Council member Alexa Avilés, who represents Sunset Park, vowed to work with FAC & NHN and TakeRoot Justice to help the tenants return home as soon as possible.
Ashley Viruet, a staff attorney at TakeRoot Justice who is representing the tenants, told my colleague, April Xu, more about the tenants’ fight.
Read what she said, and what could happen if the landlords continue to disregard city orders.
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