A pair of Brooklyn landlords were indicted on Thursday for trying to force their rent-stabilized tenants out by tearing up the apartments and making them unlivable so they could eventually be rented at higher market rates, according to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.
The landlords, Joel Israel, 34, and his brother, Amrom, or Aaron, Israel, 37 were held in lieu of $75,000 and $50,000 bail, respectively, during their arraignment on Thursday. The brothers allegedly owned or controlled at least four apartment buildings in Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
“We simply will not allow the hardworking people of Brooklyn to be intimidated and harassed or have their apartments destroyed by those who seek to force them out just to make money from the lucrative real estate market,” Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. “Rent-stabilized apartments are designed to protect tenants and cannot be turned into market value apartments through intimidation and fraud.”
Through their companies and others they controlled, the Israel brothers allegedly evicted tenants by making the apartments unlivable. They are accused of pulling down the walls in multiple apartments and making the kitchens and bathrooms unusable, trying to pay tenants off to leave, and at least one instance in which construction cut the heat to the building.
In some cases, prosecutors said, market rate was four times what the rent-stabilized tenants were paying.
They were charged with several offenses, including one count of scheme to defraud, second-degree burglary and unlawful eviction.
Bail is $75,000 bond or $50,000 cash for Joel Israel and $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash for Aaron Israel.
“Virtually all of these allegations have already been addressed in various legal proceedings in landlord tenant court,” said Kevin Keating, an attorney for Aaron Israel. “And the owners of the building were found to be without fault.”
An attorney for Joel Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If convicted of the top count, they face up to 15 years in prison.