By Léa Khayata
Tenants of 42-44 Christopher Ave in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and supporters demonstrated in front of their building – a “three-quarter house” – a transitional home to help past drug and alcohol addicts reintegrate society by providing them a roof and counseling – to protest their eviction and harassment. The street resonated with their chants: “No justice, No peace.”
Three-quarter houses are proliferating in Brownsville, but also in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and East New York. Tanya Kessler, an attorney with MFY Legal Services, Inc., which represents poor New Yorkers, estimates that there are around 5,000 people currently living in illegal boarding houses throughout the city.
The landlord, Yuri Baumblit, has already evicted the majority of the residents and is now putting pressure on the ten remaining tenants. Baumblit posted an announcement asking them to leave by Dec. 15. But those practices are illegal, according to Kessler.
House managers often resort to calling the police for evicting tenants, even though by law only a judge can issue an eviction.
“It doesn’t change much to know that we have rights,” said Angel Hernandez, a resident at the three-quarter house. “They just take our stuff and throw us out, even if it is 20 degrees outside.”
“These houses are masquerading as supportive housing programs but provide no service at all,” said Kessler. “The operators rake in thousands of dollars in city-financed rent payments a month while creating a revolving door of homelessness. It’s another example of the city’s failure to develop affordable housing for homeless people.”
A class action lawsuit was filed earlier this week against three companies that rent housing units known as “three-quarter houses”. Baumblit is named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that those companies engaged in widespread deceptive practices, pressured tenants into signing away their rights, violating the rent stabilization code laws, and unlawfully evicting tenants onto the street when they stopped paying their rent.
Brooklyn Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order to suspend the evictions.
“We hope this action will spur changes for other three-quarter houses in Brooklyn,” said Kessler.