Rent-stabilized tenants of a Lafayette Avenue apartment building say their new landlord is trying to harass them from the building so the company can raise rents to market levels.
The latest alleged tactic wielded by the Dermot Company, residents say, has been shutting off the gas for six days to all 34 units in the Fort Greene dwelling across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Dermot, which bought building between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street last December, denied that the gas stoppage was part of a strategy to drive out tenants paying low rents from the building so that high-priced residents could be brought in.
“That’s certainly not the case,” said company Vice President David Sorice. He told The Brooklyn Paper that the gas supply was turned off last Thursday due to a “clerical error” that allowed the building’s May invoice to go unpaid.
“We’re doing everything we can to get service restored to the building,” said Sorice, whose company is best known for its conversion of Brooklyn’s tallest building, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building at 1 Hansen Pl., into an all-luxury residential building.
But tenants did not believe the development company’s denial. “They’ve done major capital improvements — landscaping, work on the roof, new lighting fixtures. It looks great, but how come you [Dermot] don’t have money to pay the gas company?” asked Joe Presley, who has lived in a rent-stabilized unit since 1992.
“We’re just being harassed by Dermot,” he added, saying that the elevator in the six-story building has been out of order for a suspiciously long time and he knows of neighbors who have longstanding requests for repairs in their apartments that have not been addressed.
A tenant advocacy group says that Dermot has had a spotty record since it began purchasing buildings in Fort Greene in the last couple of years.
“I don’t how they’re having problems paying their gas bills when they’re buying and renovating new buildings all the time. It seems questionable,” said Elana Shneyer, lead organizer at the Pratt Area Community Council. “At the very least, it’s poor management style, and based on the activities they’re engaged in elsewhere, it seems very suspicious.”