This week, a woman claimed that her Bushwick landlord brought a wrecking crew into her rent-stabilized apartment, destroying the unit in an ostensible effort to push her out. This was a depressingly typical accusation against landlords Joel and Aaron Israel—CBS reports that ten Brooklyn buildings associated with Joel and Aaron Israel have a total of 482 housing code violations between them, according to city records.
Silveria Hormigo, who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment at 324 Central Ave with her four children, says she was vacated from her unit last week without warning, after Aaron Israel reportedly brought in crews that demolished her bathroom and kitchen. An attorney for the Israel brothers told CBS that Hormigo failed to pay rent, although they have offered no proof of that claim thus far.
Two families living at another one of the brothers' buildings, 98 Linden St. in Brooklyn, said the same thing happened to them. And as Gothamist reported last month, Greenpoint resident Catalina Hidalgo thinks the Israel brothers had taken an axe to the building's boilers, water heater and electrical systems in an effort to force her and her neighbors out and charge more for non-stabilized space. That building, 300 Nassau Ave, has since been deemed uninhabitable by the city.
The brothers have dozens of complaints and pending cases against them, all for allegedly concocting ways to forcing out rent-stabilized tenants. Carmen Bonilla of Bushwick Housing and Legal Assistance is helping Hormigo and other frustrated tenants fight the brothers: "Because if this landlord does not go to jail, and then other landlords are going to think they can get away with this, and other tenants are going to live in these kind of situations,” Bonilla told CBS. "And we’re going to be knocking out the rent stabilization and the rent control law, and there’s nowhere for the poor people to go."
Legal Aid attorney Brent Meltzer added that as rents in areas like Bushwick have gone up over the last couple years, he's seen more and more cases like these: "The Israel brothers are probably the most egregious, but we’ve definitely seen an uptick in the last 6, 8 months of lots of tenants coming into our offices whose buildings are being destroyed around them," Meltzer said.