Over the summer, the city expanded the loft law to extend rights to tenants living in illegal buildings throughout much of New York, so in August residents at the shabby illegal building at 360 Jefferson Street in Bushwick applied for protection and legalization under the new law. But their quest for protection has thus far backfired dramatically, and the Times reports that when their landlord caught wind of their dream of living legally, "hell broke loose."
The landlords, Mario and Maritza Villacis, accused the tenants of betraying them and swore they never knew they were living in the 1,200 square foot spaces. The Villacises claim their seven tenants were supposed to just use the spaces as art studios, but the residents say the landlords knew full well they'd been residing there for seven years, having come into their homes many times to make repairs. But the landlords called the Fire Department to report the illegal occupancy of a loft, and the tenants were forced out for a week and a half.
When the tenants returned, "a fire exit had been bricked over; their hot water had been shut off; their shower faucets and taps had been excised and tiled over; and the shower drains had been plugged with freshly set concrete." One resident tells the Times, "We thought we were gaining protection, and instead we’ve exposed ourselves." The article is a harrowing look at the consequences of trying to go legit, and calls to mind the infamous actions of DUMBO landlord Joshua Guttman, who was accused by tenants seeking legal protection of "strewing garbage in hallways, taking down doors and piling dog kibble in empty units to attract rats." On the bright side, Loft Board member Chuck DeLaney says, "It’s just like the good old days."