The residents of 172 N 8th Street in Williamsburg and landlord Jamal Alokasheh are scheduled to meet in court today, where the residents will ask that a judge appoint someone else to manage the building. They've accused Alokasheh of intentionally harming the building's foundation in an attempt to empty the rent-controlled apartments (some as low as $300 a month) so he can rent them for more. The tenants' lawyer told the Times, “He’s the only one who had access this entire time; therefore he’s the one who did this. He was the only one with the key. He’s openly made threats that he does not want them in the building."
The building was evacuated a year ago due to the unstable foundation, and tenants accused Alokasheh of stalling on renovations. When the evacuation ban was lifted, tenants had to force their way in through padlocked doors, and Alokasheh allegedly wouldn't turn on the water or electricity. But Alokasheh says he spent $100,000 on renovations, they just took so long because the building is old. He said, "We want them to live there, we want to fix it, and we are doing everything to fix it. Everything was good before they broke the locks. If there is damage in the building, maybe one of the tenants did it."
The tenants were vacated a second time just two days after they forced themselves back in, when the Department of Housing Preservation and Development discovered two cellar walls collapsed. Many also have firsthand accounts of Alokasheh attempting to squeeze them out. Tenant Anna McCusker said he told her he needed to find higher paying tenants, while Peter Pawlak said Alokasheh offered him $12,000 if he gave up his right to move back in. But Alokasheh's lawyer says there is no way he was sleazy enough to actually destroy the building. He said, "I don’t think it was purposeful. If somebody had done that, they would have to be completely out of their mind." Well, this is a New York landlord we're talking about.