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Man from Crown Heights: Landlord Is pushing him out of a $450-a-Month Apartment

Family members Curen Sutherland-Goddard, far left, Amanda Sutherland and Bella Clarke visited Mr. Roberts last week. The apartment has not had heat since the property changed in hands in April, Mr. Roberts said.
Family members Curen Sutherland-Goddard, far left, Amanda Sutherland and Bella Clarke visited Mr. Roberts last week. The apartment has not had heat since the property changed in hands in April, Mr. Roberts said.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Francis Roberts—who has resided in his Crown Heights apartment for more than 20 years —is allegedly being harassed by his landlord in attempts for him to vacate. Roberts’ rent is currently $450 per month since his apartment is rent-stabilized.

His neighborhood is quickly becoming gentrified, with the average rent being around $3,000 a month according to StreetEasy. Roberts also said that green liquid leaks from his kitchen ceiling and music as loud as jackhammers comes from the apartment above him on and off throughout the day.

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He believes this is a scheme to get him to leave as soon as possible. Roberts also said that squatters put up tents in front of his apartments and that two portable clogged toilets were put in front of his bedroom windows. He claims he hasn’t had heat since April.

Now, with the help of Brooklyn Legal Services’ Tenant Right Coalition, Roberts is suing 972 Park Place L.L.C. which purchased the brownstone for $1.3 million. His lawyer, Liam McSweeney, says “they took the harassment to another level.”

Yehuda Gruenberg, who is the head officer of the company that owns the property, expressed to The New York Times through his legal team that harassment isn’t happening. Gruenberg’s lawyer, Julius Toonkel, said that Roberts is possibly dealing with a “dispute between tenants” and that the landlord has “no control of third parties and other tenant/s on the premises.”

However, Roberts claims that other tenants who lived in the building for many years either took buyouts or simply left because of horrible living conditions. In addition to suing the corporation, he is also suing its agents and New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Roberts wants them to fix more than 200 open violations including sewage backup, mold and lead paint. A spokesperson for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development stated the agency has “initiated legal action against the owner.”

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