UPDATE: Joel and Aaron Israel pleaded not guilty to seven charges on Thursday afternoon, including fraud, burglary, grand larceny, submitting false documents and unlawful eviction, the New York Times reports. The burglary charge, the most serious of the allegations, comes from a 2014 incident where an employee deputized by the Israels entered an apartment at 324 Central Avenue in Bushwick when the resident was not home and destroyed the kitchen and bathroom. Similar actions were taken at 98 Linden Street, described below. Aaron Israel’s bail was set at $75,000 and Joel Israel’s at $50,000.
Tenants are winning a battle on the ongoing war between renters and landlords: two Brooklyn landlords were arrested on Thursday morning on as-yet-undisclosed charges stemming from allegations that they tried to drive rent-stabilized tenants out of their Bushwick building by intentionally damaging their apartments, the New York Times reports. Distressed property brothers Joel and Aaron Israel own 98 Linden Street in Bushwick, where under the pretense of making improvements, an employee of the brothers destroyed the kitchens and bathrooms in apartments 1L and 1R with a sledgehammer in the summer of 2013. Residents of 98 Linden and other buildings owned by the Israels in Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint say that the brothers have tried to force them out so that the landlords can renovate and charge much higher market rates for the apartments.
According to the Times, “prosecution of landlords on criminal charges is rare, but the case of 98 Linden was particularly egregious, law enforcement officials and tenant advocates said.” Residents of 1L told the Times that after the demolition, they could see into the basement of the building through their destroyed kitchen floor. The apartment was then left in that condition for at least 8 months.
98 Linden is a horror story of the absolute worst excesses of gentrification. The residents of 1R, Juan Calero and Gloria Corea, emigrated from Nicaragua and settled in the apartment in the early 90s, when Bushwick’s eventual status as the hippest place in America was just a real estate developer’s fantastical dream. At the time of the demolition, they lived in the two bedroom apartment with their adult daughter and her husband, the only resident with a job.
Joel and Aaron Israel’s JBI Management was subpoenaed last year by the state’s Tenant Protection Unit last year. Prosecutors plan to speak publicly about the arrest in front of 98 Linden Street on Thursday afternoon.
(Image: Google Maps)