Legal Aid Society files lawsuit to stop illegal apartment conversions in NYC
Legal Aid Society filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Buildings, the New York State Department of Homes and Community Renewal and landlords of a Brooklyn building after they say illegal apartment layout alterations have been initiated. The Legal Aid Society says these alterations can displace long-term rent-stabilized tenants.
After a three-alarm fire destroyed Marshall Reese’s apartment building on Thanksgiving last year, he and his wife were forced to vacate the rent-stabilized apartment they lived in for 40 years. They say their landlord has been trying to change the layout of the building’s apartments.
“All the apartments had eat-in kitchens, all of the kitchens were moved to the center of the building, being replaced by kitchenettes, closets were being removed,” said Reese.
New York City law says that landlords are supposed get approval from both the city’s Department of Buildings and the state’s Department of Homes and Community Renewals before making changes to layouts in rent-stabilized apartments.
“What these landlords are doing is ignoring the laws, they’re circumventing the process and they’re going right to the Department of Buildings…We’re seeing them alter the apartments in ways that will permanently displace long-term rent-stabilized tenants,” said a representative from the Legal Aid Society.
In a statement, DOB said "We are legally obligated to issue a permit for a construction project when all of the requirements that we are legally allowed to enforce are met. DOB approvals do not absolve a property owner of their responsibility to comply with the regulations of other government agencies. We are reviewing the suit."