Flatbush Tenants Call on AG James to Investigate Landlord’s Violations

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Residents protest building conditions in front of 1111 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn. Photos courtesy of the Flatbush Tenants Coalition.

Renters in Flatbush doubled down on their strike today, gathering in front of an apartment building at 1111 Ocean Ave to demand that Attorney General Letitia James take a look into the dangerous conditions. Led by the Flatbush Tenants Coalition, several renters and supporters joined underneath scaffolding and listened to personal stories of repairs neglected. 

The group claim that the Attorney General’s office already investigated the building’s owner, Abraham Wasserman, in 2019, but no action has been taken. Since June 2020, many renters have responded with a rent strike. 

“We need their help. We’re not going to be able to fix this without them coming to our aid,” resident Andrew Butler said. 

“They don’t want another situation like the building collapse in Florida,” said Coalition representative Sabrina Simon, referring to the Champlain Towers in Miami, where 98 people died after the apartment complex went from visibly damaged to a fallen pile of rubble. That building is currently under active investigation.

From Simon’s view of the situation at Ocean Avenue, the owner’s lack of attention to repairs spells death for future residents. “The work they were doing was not up to code,” she said, adding that the scaffolding they protested underneath went up five years ago in response to falling concrete. This morning, it shielded them from the weather as they chanted, “Tenant power!”

For six years, renters like Butler have been fighting their landlord on “dangerously deteriorating terraces,” scaffolding, and ceiling leaks. Landlord Wasserman, who could not be reached for comment, continues to charge market-rate prices for the apartments. 

According to Streeteasy, a one-bedroom at 1111 Ocean Avenue is currently under contract for $1,749 a month. 

“Our landlord is letting our building fall apart, literally. It’s endangering our lives, our neighbors, and even people passing by,” said Butler via the Coalition’s press release. 

The NYC Department of Buildings record shows 21 open violations at Wasserman’s building, and one open complaint. A recent filing from June 9 calls the violation “immediately hazardous.” Another on August 4 reports loose and falling concrete on the underside of the balconies, posing an immediate threat to passersby. The DOB eventually issued stop-work orders for repair work that was also viewed as dangerous. 

Renters say the investigation into Wasserman began before James, the current Attorney General, took office, and they want her to pick up where the last attorney left off.

James’ office has not been in touch with the coalition or the renters, and did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

Until then, Simon calls this demonstration another powerful moment in their fight. “It’s always good to see tenants utilize the power they possess,” she said.