Location DUMBO (Brooklyn)
Rent $2900 (rent stabilized)
Square feet 1800
Occupants Reeves Carter (litigation associate, Ladas & Parry), Karla Olivier (corporate and real estate attorney)
Every time I talk to you, it’s something else. This situation is like a writhing mass. This is our 20th discussion. Now we’re on the phone. Let’s review: You moved into this large, elegant loft—steel refrigerator, marble sink on silver poles—in February 2000. You put in South Asian-inspired furnishings, a dining table made of Indonesian wood, chairs with Thai designs, sparkling pillows from India. You’d just gotten married after meeting at the Justice Department—Karla was representing a Somalian refugee. You were happy! You loved blossoming DUMBO, one of the fastest-gentrifying industrial neighborhoods in the world, with the Walentas family developers giving specially picked businesses free rent for a year. You loved the chocolate shop in your building with the rabbits wrapped in cellophane, the park, the people. But then, last summer, they began building a bar downstairs—building, you said, “nights, weekends, Christmas Day.” On Martin Luther King Day, you came home and “the apartment was filthy with dust from sandblasting.” Brian, one of the bar owners, put you both up in a hotel and paid for an industrial cleaner. Everything was OK for a bit, but then, on St. Patrick’s Day, the bar opened. [Reeves] The floors were shaking. [Karla] Everyone came out of their apartments. The bar had a band. [Reeves] Oh the band. I invited Brian up to my apartment. He said, “We had the best soundproofing in the city.” I said, “You have to get your money back.” He said that Walentas’s Two Trees management company was 100 percent behind the bar and we should move if it bothered us that much and he’d help us find an apartment. [Karla] He hasn’t given us any leads. We’re on pins and needles at night. I dread my weekends. And the smoke! I wake up feeling hung over as if I’ve been at the party. You smelled it coming up in the elevator.
Then the Two Trees property manager, who you said is “in cahoots with Brian”—well, she is his sister—showed you apartments in other buildings. [Karla] Smaller, more expensive. [Reeves] Our response is “Why should we move?” [Karla] Her response is always “Why are you here?” [Reeves] This is the same building that made a tenant get rid of a dog that barked. [Karla] We don’t want to come across as these privileged people. [Reeves] We love our apartment; we want to sleep in it. [Karla] Everything else about DUMBO is very nice and upscale. So many people in the building have babies. And you know the artists aren’t going to this bar. They’re going to Superfine.
You contacted the councilmember, the borough president. You got the tenants together. You wrote letters. The building owner’s son, Jed Walentas, came to hear the sound. In April, you and two other tenants went on a rent strike. The Department of Environmental Protection, which came in March, said the noise was within the legal range. But what I heard while visiting you on a Sunday at 7 p.m. would make me jump out a window. Anyway, you start spending weekends at the Brooklyn Marriott for $179 a night so you can sleep. Two Trees sues you for withholding rent. You’re getting digital sound equipment to gather evidence. Your defense is “Two Trees did not provide us with the apartment we’ve been renting for two and a half years. We won’t pay until we get back the full use.” Meanwhile Two Trees says smoke and sound will be corrected by the end of June. You don’t see how they’re going to solve this by then. You already “feel betrayed. They say they’re going to set sound levels, then they don’t.” I told you about a woman who poured ammonia down her porous loft floors to shut up a tenant below, and, well, that is extreme. Anyway, on May 11, there’s a fire in the back of the bar. You’re in the apartment folding laundry at the time, but you are a “strong believer in karma.” This is all we have room for today. Keep calling with reports.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 21, 2002