Last night, tenants at 1507 St. Johns Place and 1059 Bergen Street formed a coalition to collectively address common problems in their buildings. Tenants in the Crown Heights properties, which are both owned by companies associated with Vasco Ventures, are plagued by bad conditions that are only met with cosmetic repairs. Even worse, the tenants are constantly faced with harassment.
Vasco Ventures, an investment company headed up by (at least) Barry Farkas, Mike Silber, and Ephraim Vashovsky has purchased both of these buildings in the past year. You don’t have to know a lot about landlords or a lot about Crown Heights to understand what their goal is. The neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, and Vasco Ventures and companies like them are jumping at the opportunity to turn a profit off the valuable real estate. But there is one problem: these buildings are home to long term, low income tenants. And the buildings are rent regulated.
But, for the unscrupulous landlord with a dysfunctional moral compass, there is a whole list of tactics to get around this issue, from harassment to deferred maintenance to offering tenants one-time, large chunks of money to vacate. These tactics are precisely what tenants from 1507 St. Johns and 1059 Bergen Street teamed up to fight against last night. We don’t know exactly what Vasco Ventures’ plans for these two properties are, of course, but tenants do know what they have experienced thus far:
This morning on News 12, Tanisha Mosley, a tenant living at 1507 St. Johns Place, described that an accident had happened in her apartment on Sunday – her bathroom ceiling collapsed. As the debris came down, bricks, dead rodents, and trash fell to the ground. Many of Tanisha’s possessions were destroyed. Moments before the ceiling collapsed, Tanisha removed her 4 month old baby from her crib, which sits beside the bathroom. If she had not, the bricks could have fallen on her child.
This is the second time that such an accident has happened at 1507 St. Johns Place in 2013, and a similar incident has occurred at 1059 Bergen Street. Things like this occur and re-occur when landlords opt for a quick fix over behind-the-walls repairs.
In one particularly egregious tale of harassment, Mike of Vasco Ventures offered a tenant, Alicia, $3000 to vacate her apartment. When she refused, he took her to housing court (on false claims.) Her neighbor is experiencing the same things.
We believe that organizing – and forming tenant coalitions like the one that started last night – is a great way to stop landlords from pushing tenants out of their homes.