The property will be turned over to the City to be converted to affordable housing as part of the settlement. On February 23, 2022, Mayor Eric Adams announced that a settlement had been reached between the City and Gennaro Brooks-Church and Loretta Gendville, the owners of 1214 Dean Street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The settlement comes after tenants were illegally evicted in 2020 and the couple operated illegal short-term rentals across nine buildings for four years. The settlement totals $2.25 million, and is the City’s first ever enforcement of the Unlawful Eviction Law.
Between January 2016 and the summer of 2020, the couple placed 83 different listings for illegal short-term rentals on AirBnb, which generated $1.4 million from nearly 5,600 guests. In July 2020, the landlords threatened and pushed out tenants at 1214 Dean Street illegally by removing tenants’ possessions and changing the locks. This illegal lockout occurred during the COVID-19 eviction moratorium. After word spread about the illegal lockout via social media, the Law Department sent a cease and desist letter to the landlords. Working with the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, the Office of the Attorney General and the Law Department’s Tenant Protection Unit, a lawsuit was brought against the landlords in November 2020. A second lawsuit was filed by the Office of Special Enforcement in December 2020 for the illegal short term rentals. Tenants impacted by the illegal lockout also brought actions for damages.
The settlement reached between the landlords and the City will require Brooks-Church and Gendville to pay $250,000 to the city and state in penalties, transfer 1214 Dean Street to an entity designated by the city to be used as affordable housing, agree to a permanent injunction from further short-term rentals in the city, and compliance with rental laws in New York State pursuant to a written agreement with the Office of the Attorney General. 1214 Dean Street is valued at approximately $2 million, so the total value of the settlement is $2.25 million. To read the settlement, click here.
The landlords have also settled with the former tenants of 1214 Dean Street for the damages from the illegal lockout.
Mayor Adams stated, “. . . Safe, affordable housing is not only vital to the city’s survival and public safety but is a basic human right, which is why my administration will never hesitate to stand up for tenants who are illegally harmed. Today’s settlement sends a clear message to slumlords everywhere in the city: Cruel and illegal behavior will not be tolerated, and, as long as I am mayor, you will never get away with putting tenants at risk. I thank the Attorney General for her continued partnership and fighting every day to protect New York City’s tenants.”
Attorney General Letitia James stated, “During a period of unprecedented global struggle, Brooks-Church and Gendville callously forced New Yorkers from their homes. We have long seen these types of harmful housing scams, especially in Central Brooklyn, where people make a business out of unfairly and inhumanely pushing others out of their homes. Let this serve as a warning: any landlord who mistreats and tries to unlawfully evict renters will face the full force of my office and the law. We will continue to work closely with Mayor Adams and other government partners to ensure individuals like these can no longer terrorize New Yorkers.”
By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)