Another day, another depressing real estate story. Stories like this are about as reliable as the snow has been this winter, you know? Except that the snow is going to stop. We all know that soon enough the snow is going to stop. But these real-life tales of loss and displacement are not showing any sign of abating. On the contrary, really, because while rental prices might be lowering in Manhattan, they are still skyrocketing in Brooklyn. And so there will be more and more stories about rapacious developers and crooked landlords and beleaguered tenants. Maybe we should be getting used to these, by now, or maybe not. Maybe we should actually be getting angrier and angrier at the lack of respect shown to the people who moved to neighborhoods when they were unsafe and rundown, and now that the property values have risen, these same people are being forced to relocate without the proper compensation. Well, if you want to feed your rage (and who doesn’t, really?) read on, because we think we’ve found the worst landlords in Park Slope.
The New York Times, a paper which sometimes runs real estate stories about oblivious young millionaires who think that the Wolf of Wall Street is an aspirational film, also sometimes runs the kind of stories that makes you grudgingly admit that you still hold a great deal of respect for the paper of record. Well, at least until you remember that they continue to keep Tom Friedman and David Brooks and Ross Douthat and Alex Williams on staff and you realize that compartmentalization is the key to getting through the Times, and, I guess, life. Anyway, all of this is to say that the Times ran a pretty heart-rending piece about the plight of the tenants at 78 St. Mark’s Place in Park Slope. The building sits on the corner of a highly trafficked stretch of 4th Avenue, not far from the Barclays Center, which is a neighborhood that has long been “Park Slope” for realtors, but which historically had about as much in common with, say, the corner of 2nd Street and Prospect Park West as Bushwick did. Two of the building’s tenants, brothers Benito and Eugenio Cruz, remember what the area used to be like—”junkies shot up in their vestibule; gang members punched little girls in the nose; a dead woman was found, gape-mouthed, inside the burned-out frame of a sedan”—and lament, “It was ugly. Now it’s now. [We]’d like to stay.”
Well, and why shouldn’t they be able to stay? What’s preventing the Cruz brothers and the many other tenants (mostly Dominican and Puerto Ricans, including “two carpenters, a cabdriver, a home health aide, a school counselor and a factory laborer”) from staying in the building that many have called home for decades? If you’ve been paying any attention to the real estate news in this city, it won’t take too long for you to guess. They’re being kicked out of their homes by what must be two of the worst landlords we’ve ever heard of. The Times reports that father and son duo Victor and Harry Einhorn purchased the building “two years ago and want the tenants gone. The Einhorns have filed papers with the city and state to demolish the building and its seven apartments. Officially, they propose to build a warehouse; unofficially, they acknowledge, they plan to toss up a condominium tower.” So, yeah, the Einhorns are not only kicking everyone out, but they are lying about what they actually intend to do with the lot. Cool. But at least they’re probably paying the evicted tenants a fair amount of money for their appropriated apartments? Haha. No. No, they’re not. Initially, the Einhorns offered each tenant “$50,000 and a deadline of two weeks. The tenants refused, and now the Einhorns’ offer may be twice as much.” And while $100,000 might seem like a lot of money, it will be treated like income and thus reduced by a significant percentage, making it pretty much impossible for the tenants to have any choice but to move far from the place they’ve so long called home.
But what exactly makes the Einhorns any worse than most other landlords? Is it the fact that they’ve blatantly lied about what they will do with the lot? Is it the way that they’ve backed their tenants into a corner, and don’t take care of basic property owner duties like shoveling the sidewalk? Is it that “last year, on Christmas Eve, they served eviction papers on a day care and senior center in Williamsburg?” Is it that Victor Einhorn “was convicted of an $8 million fraud in 2002. The federal judge noted his ‘history of deceit’ and ‘blatant’ law breaking?” Yes! It is all of those things. The Einhorns are exactly the kind of cannibalistic real estate assholes that care for nothing except the bottom line. But then, what else should we expect to find in a city that has treated everyone from low-level developers like the Einhorns to super-developers like Bruce Ratner like princes. Basically, this is just a case of the city getting the landlords that it deserves, and, unfortunately, the policies put in place during the Bloomberg years paved the way for people like the Einhorns to flourish, and for people like the tenants in 78 St. Mark’s Place to flounder, and, ultimately, flee. Eugenio Cruz told the Times, that even with the $100,000 ““It’s impossible. I’m 53; for me, this is the end of New York. I’m gone.” The Times article ends on a maybe trying too hard to be poetic note, with the sentiment “So a corner of New York crumbles.” But that is not exactly true. A crumbling corner implies that there will be detritus left behind, some footprint that proves that something else used to be there. The sad thing with this story is that this corner of New York isn’t going to stay crumbled. This corner will be erased. Something new and shiny will go in its place, and soon enough something new and shiny will go on the surrounding corners, and landlords like the Einhorns will continue to devour and destroy at will. And so it goes.
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