Yesterday, the Voice wrote about a protest happening today at Brooklyn Supreme Court. Led by Occupy Wall Street and the group Organizing for Occupation (which led a successful eviction blockade of 82-year-old Mary Ward’s home in August), the afternoon event will protest the foreclosure of three more properties in Brooklyn.
But though the rally will attempt to stop the auctions of 90 Glen Street, 964 Dean Street, and 1241 Flatbush Avenue, event organizers have no idea who occupies these addresses.
Who lives there? Who works there? If renters, do they know they soon could be evicted?
We decided to find out. In no case did the current tenants know of Organizing for Occupation, nor that Occupy Wall Street had any interest in the fate of their building.
1241 Flatbush Avenue
The large apartment building houses New Bombay Masala, an Indian restaurant, on its ground floor, as well as apartments on the floors above it. The owner of the restaurant, Mohammed Manik, and the manager, Iqbal Hossain, were unaware that the building would be put up for sale today when we interviewed them.
Manik and Hossain rent the space in the building. They became the new owner and manager, respectively, nearly five months ago, Hossain said.
Shocked and alarmed about news of the foreclosure, Hossain said he was concerned about the future of the restaurant.
“Foreclosure is not good. [Banks] have to find another way. Otherwise, people lose their homes, businesses and jobs,” Hossain said.
The Voice was unable to get in touch with the owner or the other tenants of the building.
964 Dean Street
Much like the owners of New Bombay Masala, the tenants we spoke to at 964 Dean Street, David Stoller and Kenny Lloyd, were unaware of today’s protest.
However, the two musicians and audio engineering professionals say they were aware that the four-floor commercial building where they live and work will be put up for sale today. They fear that both their businesses and apartments are at stake.
Stoller said he received notice of the auction the second week of September. The legal papers were postmarked on Sept. 7, which said papers were filed for an auction on Aug. 25, he said.
“There’s a big story behind this,” said Stoller, the owner of The Samurai Hotel Recording Studio, which is housed on the second floor of the building.
Since June, a series of events — including court dates and evictions — have taken place, Stoller and Lloyd say. They are the only tenants left in the large, commercial property.
“I’m blown away as far as how fast the process has gone. This happened faster than I expected,” Stoller said. “I’m in a limbo.”
Stoller said the drama started when the landlord and his partner became unable to pay the mortgage on the building and brought in an investor group, who ultimately tried to take over the property as the new landlord.
In June, a group began entering the building illegally, Stoller and Lloyd said, and approached tenants with papers claiming it was the new owner of the building.
Stoller claims that after the building received a new receiver, the old landlord did not use the tenants’ rent payments to pay the new receiver. Soon after, Stoller and Lloyd, along with occupants on the third floor (which included the landlord) received an eviction notice in June. Stoller and Lloyd went to court and obtained a stay that allowed them to remain in the building. They also enlisted the help of a lawyer.
After the building’s new receiver took over, it claimed Stoller and Lloyd owed $38,367 in “back rent,” but they were cleared of the charges they call bogus in court.
“It was a totally made up number on their end,” Lloyd said.
The other tenants were not so lucky. In July, the third floor was successfully evicted. Stoller and Lloyd said the ordeal was dramatic: police were present, and the old landlord was handcuffed. Stoller and Lloyd also say that for nearly two months, from the July 4th weekend until Sept. 23, the new landlord installed a security guard at the front of the building.
According to Stoller, last month, neighbors in a nearby unit on the second floor were asked to leave, after their attempts to seek legal assistance failed. This left Stolller and Lloyd as the only tenants in the building.
Lloyd says there is a group that wants to turn the building into a condominium. “It’s an historical kind of building. It can be a much better place than turning it into a condo,” he thinks. He said companies are purchasing buildings nearby left and right, and he attributes this trend to the construction of the new Brooklyn Nets arena in Atlantic Yards in Prospect Heights.
Stoller wonders if the auction is even legal and he says his business and livelihood are on the line.
“I’m really getting screwed on this,” Stoller said. “I actually started making a profit this year, and now I’m getting kicked out.” When he moved in four years ago, he spent thousands of dollars to convert the space into an apartment and professional recording studio.
“I built this place with my bare hands,” Stoller said.
Former tenants included people using the units as apartments and businesses, including a small magazine office and a clothing store. A new bakery was to open on the first floor this fall, but its owners were evicted by the new landlord before its grand opening, Stoller said. The fourth floor was always vacant.
90 Glen Street
This building is a two-story residential home surrounded by the East New York, Ozone Park, Bushwick and Glendale neighborhoods. It’s located on a block with similar sized houses, just a few blocks away from Evergreen Cemetery, near the Queens/Brooklyn border.
The home seems to occupied by a family with at least one child. We were unable to interview anyone there yet.
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