Brooklyn Buy-Out

by Steven R. Wagner

We represent a group of tenants who were displaced from their rent stabilized apartments in 2012 and lost virtually all of their possessions after a seven-alarm fire destroyed the entire building, which happens to be located in a neighborhood in Brooklyn where property values are rapidly rising. The tenants have been fighting for more than 6 years to get back into their homes, or, failing that, to be compensated for the items they lost and for the value of their rent stabilized leases.  All of the tenants lost nearly every possession they owned and were essentially rendered homeless with nowhere to go and minimal assistance from their landlord; meanwhile, the building has remained vacant and abandoned for the last 7 years, with the landlord making no effort to rebuild or repair. We have been litigating with the landlord, which happens to be a major developer with significant NYC real estate holdings, to meaningfully compensate these tenants for the loss of their homes.

Our three-pronged litigation strategy includes: A Supreme Court action alleging breach of lease, nuisance and negligence theories; a Housing Court proceeding seeking to compel the landlord to rebuild the building and restore the tenants to their homes; and a harassment proceeding with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (“DHCR”). The goal with respect to these tenants is to get them compensation commensurate with the value of their rent stabilized leases. One way to calculate this value is to use a formula created by the DHCR when a landlord seeks to demolish a rent regulated building. Another way is to calculate the “fair market rental value” of the apartments based on expert appraisals, which we argue is due to the tenants under a nuisance or tort theory of law. 

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