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Brooklyn Landlords Ghosted Immigrants After a Fire, Prompting Legal Action

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. 

STORIES WE ARE FOLLOWING 

New York

New digital resource addresses language gaps in health information: The digital hub shows accessible healthcare information in 12 languages, launched as a result of gaps in translated health materials seen during the pandemic. — Read more

Where Democratic candidates for NY-10 stand on immigration issues: During a debate, Yuh-Line Niou, Rep. Mondaire Jones, Jo Anne Simon shared their views on newly arrived migrants in New York and solutions they believe are needed. — Pix 11

NYC working to enroll newly arrived migrant children in public schools: Texas sent four more buses carrying asylum seekers, including about 40 children, to Port Authority on Wednesday morning. — Spectrum News NY1

Around the U.S. 

Questions arise as green card backlog falls in August: Boundless Immigration’s research raises questions about the integrity of new data that indicates the immigrant visa backlog is shrinking because officials are scheduling more interviews. — Read more

Court: final removal order doesn’t trigger immigration stop-time rule: A 9th Circuit ruling finds that an immigrants’ ‘continuous physical presence’ doesn’t end when they’re given a final removal order. — Bloomberg Law (Paywall)

Washington D.C.

DHS could let businesses remotely verify immigrant employees’ work eligibility: A proposal published in the federal register details the expansion of a temporary program that launched during the pandemic. — Reuters

SEE MORE STORIES
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