Eviction notices are designed to help renters, says Crown Heights owner’s attorney

An attorney for two Crown Heights buildings where tenants are on strike says eviction procedures are designed to help tenants, not evict them.

Feb. 22, 2023 5:10 p.m. EST | Updated February 22, 2023 5:44 PM EST

CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN — Tenants of two buildings managed by the same company called for “real repairs” at a rally Saturday.

Residents at 1616 President St. and 575 Herkimer St. have been on rent strikes for over a year, claiming the management company refused to make repairs.

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“No repairs, no rent,” chanted the crowd.

But the management company disagrees, claiming it has carried out dozens of repairs and renovations in the buildings, but tenants have refused them entry and fought.

Gilman Management told Patch in a statement that “the owners of any property are happy to make repairs when access is granted and have no desire to evict residents,” said attorney David Graber.

Records show that Graber filed five non-payment eviction lawsuits at 575 Herkimer St. this year against residents who owe a total of $85,000 in rent arrears, Graber said.

The courts, Graber said, are a preferred way to make repairs for everyone involved, rather than the press.

And the eviction lawsuits were initiated in favor of the tenants by setting up payment agreements, Graber said.

“An agreement can be reached whereby a payment arrangement can be made and specific access details can be agreed upon, with a list of required repairs to be carried out as part of the agreement,” Graber said.

“The landlord doesn’t want to evict these people and is happy to help them get help or give them time to pay the arrears over time,” he told Patch.

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Tenant Jaren Forbes told the crowd that with “families that have lived in her for 50 years,” Gilman Management wasn’t entirely forthcoming, refusing to make repairs and only offering patchwork repairs if they did work.

According to Forbes, apartments suffer from lack of maintenance, mold and other problems.

“They’re always here on the first of the month,” Fobes said, “but when it comes to repairs? ‘Oh, we’ll get back to you.'”

She told the crowd that she finally fixed the windows in her apartment at 575 Herkimer St. “after 20 years of struggle,” something that only happened after a rent strike, Forbes said.

Residents at 1616 President St. have expressed similar concerns.

Some tenants of the President Street building have been on strike since the early days of the 2020 pandemic under previous owner Jason Korn, who frequently tops lists of the city’s worst landlords.

“We’ve been on strike for three years and we’re asking for nothing but repairs to our home,” said a local resident at the rally.

The resident, who did not give her name, gave a long list of problems: leaks, mold, rats and a child she said developed asthma after moving in.

“You ask for rent and yet we live like this?” she told the crowd.

Graber, on behalf of Gilman Management, says “repairs can begin tomorrow if access is granted,” at 1616 President St.

Tenants say they don’t deny access, but workers don’t coordinate with them and show up when residents aren’t home.

And at 575 Herkimer St., Graber says that in addition to roofing and siding work, Gilman installed new appliances in more than six units, retiled bathrooms, and remediated mold in 17 of the 22 units.

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“As far as the landlord knows, all the desired repairs have been tackled,” said Graber.

But if more repairs are pending, tenants who have a court order as a result of eviction proceedings can ask the court for repair performance, he said.

“If promised repairs aren’t made, the tenant can sue in court instead of going to the press, and the landlord will be held accountable,” Graber told Patch.