Sen. Schumer says predatory real estate firm is booting Brooklynites from apartments

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Fed-up tenants and local politicians rallied in Park Slope on Friday against a real estate management company they say is swallowing up Brooklyn apartment buildings and aggressively pushing residents out through harassment and lease-expiration notices.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Greenbrook Partners, the Manhattan-based firm, as a “Scrooge” that has engaged in a “despicable” drive during the pandemic to pull profits from properties at the expense of longtime tenants.

“This is a horrible thing, and we are here to stop it,” Schumer said outside 70 Prospect Park West, a 30-unit building that advocates paint as ground zero for Greenbrook’s behavior across the borough. “I can’t think of anything that’s more anti-New York than kicking tenants out of their homes just to make a fortune on their backs.”

He spoke in a crowd of people who carried colorful signs with messages like “PEOPLE OVER PROFITS” and “PRESERVE PARK SLOPE.” The rally followed a similar spring gathering at the same spot.

Schumer said Greenbrook has targeted residents with non-renewal bulletins, disruptive construction and intentionally crummy conditions, with designs of replacing them and jacking up prices. He said he doubts the legality of the moves.

Prospect Park West is one of Brooklyn’s most desirable residential stretches, a leafy boulevard with instant access to the borough’s 526-acre park. Schumer lives on the street.

But Greenbrook has reached its tentacles across Brooklyn, acquiring real estate in Crown Heights, Cobble Hill, Bushwick and other areas, according to the office of City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn).

“We learned about this when it was just the folks at 70 Prospect Park West thinking it was just their building where this was happening,” said Lander, a progressive Park Sloper who is running for city comptroller. “Tenants did the research to see what other buildings had Greenbrook bought up. And first it was a dozen. And then it was 40. And now it is 107 buildings in Brooklyn.”

Lander’s office said that the city’s Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force has investigated 33 of the properties in the last two years, finding 860 violations.

Greenbrook didn’t respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon.

On its website, the firm says it “targets investments in poorly maintained, undermanaged and undercapitalized assets located in growth-oriented and transitional submarkets.”

Schumer said the company has been bankrolled by an investment from Texas Permanent School Fund, which is controlled by the Texas State Board of Education.

In a letter dated Aug. 31 to the Texas Education Agency, he called on members of the board to consider divesting from NW1 Partners, the firm he said was funneling the school fund money into Greenbrook.

“I dare say that the thousands of teachers in Texas who put their money in for pensions do not want their money used to kick out tenants,” Schumer said in the rally.

The Texas Education Agency didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

New York State Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn) said Greenbrook showed the need for legislation to ban the non-renewal of residential leases without good cause. A bill that would accomplish that goal was introduced in the state Senate in January 2019, but it stalled.

Carroll suggested Greenbrook was exploiting a loophole in protections passed during the pandemic. An eviction moratorium is in place in New York State and covers tenants who show they are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID.

“We strengthened tenant rights for those in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments, so they immediately went to the weakest link: Those folks who don’t have protections,” Carroll said of predatory landlords. “So it’s the job of the state legislature now to make sure we protect all tenants when we get back to Albany in January.”

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