Two Brooklyn landlords who attempted to evict their Crown Heights tenants this summer, provoking widespread backlash and a days-long occupation of the property, are now being sued by the city.

Attorneys for Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration announced the suit on Tuesday against Gennaro Brooks-Church and Loretta Gendville, the co-owners of 1214 Dean Street. The ex-couple "blatantly harassed" the building's tenants, "using force and threatening to use force" to kick them out in defiance of the state moratorium on evictions, according to the city.

Tenants said they decided to withhold their rent payments in May, after many lost their jobs due to the pandemic and their request for a rent reduction was denied. In response, the landlords began making regular trips to the apartment to push the tenants out — including a young woman who'd just returned from the hospital and was recovering from brain surgery, according to the city's suit.

The attempted eviction prompted a fierce stand-off on July 7th between Brooks-Church and more than 100 activists and community members, who gathered on the building's porch to decry the landlord's tactics. Led by Equality for Flatbush, members of the group camped out on the property for several days, preventing Brooks-Church and his hired locksmiths from returning to the building.

The suit also details a litany of allegations against Gendville, a longtime owner of several Brooklyn yoga studios, spas, a vegan cafe, and the chain of upscale children's stores, Area Kids. According to the suit, she broke into a tenant's room while she was changing, grabbing her by the wrist and pulling her into the hallway, where she was confronted by Brooks-Church, their three children, and two maintenance workers.

"I’ve never seen such a lack of human compassion," the tenant told Gothamist afterward. "It felt so insidious that people who are affluent in their community could rationalize this."

Activists with Equality for Flatbush confronting Brooks-Church this summer

Activists with Equality for Flatbush confronting Brooks-Church this summer

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Activists with Equality for Flatbush confronting Brooks-Church this summer
Scott Heins/Gothamist

In August, The Cut published a lengthy investigation exposing years of shady business and real estate practices by the ex-couple, described by one former employee as “Brooklyn Heights’ Bonnie and Clyde.” Aside from their tangle of often exploitative businesses, the couple illegally converted several single-family homes, including the one at 1214 Dean Street, according to the story.

Tenants, most of them young service industry employees, said they were offered single rooms without leases and denied basic maintenance services.

The lawsuit is seeking civil penalties for the eviction law violation, tenant harassment, and the illegal conversion of the apartments. A spokesperson for the Law Department confirmed that any recovered money would go to the city, not the tenants.

“This Administration will not tolerate landlords who illegally evict and harass tenants out of their homes, and we will take forceful action like today’s lawsuit to make that very clear,” Ricardo Martínez Campos, the deputy director for the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, said in a statement.

Inquiries to Brooks-Church and Gendville were not returned.