Tired tenants and local politicians rallied in Park Slope on Friday against a property management company they say is gobbling up Brooklyn apartment buildings and aggressively pushing back residents through harassment and expiration notices of lease.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) described Greenbrook Partners, the Manhattan-based company, as a “Scrooge” who engaged in a “despicable” campaign during the pandemic for profit properties at the expense of long-term tenants.
“It’s a horrible thing, and we’re here to stop it,” Schumer said outside 70 Prospect Park West, a 30-unit apartment building that advocates painting as a starting point for Greenbrook’s behavior in the rounding. “I see nothing more anti-New York than chasing tenants out of their homes just to make a fortune on their backs. “
He spoke in front of a crowd of people carrying colorful signs with messages such as “PEOPLE OVER PROFITS” and “PRESERVE PARK SLOPE”. The rally followed a spring gathering at the same place.
Schumer said Greenbrook has targeted residents with non-renewal bulletins, disruptive construction and intentionally lousy conditions, with designs to replace them and raise prices. He said he doubted the legality of the movements.
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 streets.
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 Councilor Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn).
“We learned this when only the folks at 70 Prospect Park West thought it was just their building where it was happening,” said Lander, a progressive Park Sloper who presents himself as city comptroller. “The tenants did some research to see what other buildings Greebrook had purchased. And first, it was a dozen. And then it was 40. And now it’s 107 buildings in Brooklyn.
Lander’s office said the city’s tenant harassment prevention task force had investigated 33 of the properties over the past two years, finding 860 violations.
Greenbrook did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday afternoon.
On its website, the firm says so “Targets investments in poorly maintained, under-managed and under-capitalized assets located in growth-oriented and transitioning submarkets. “
Schumer said the company was funded by an investment from the 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 board members to consider divesting NW1 Partners, the company he said was channeling school fund money to Greenbrook.
“I dare say that the thousands of teachers in Texas who have invested their money in pensions don’t want their money used to evict tenants,” Schumer said at the rally.
The Texas Education Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
New York State Assembly Member Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn) said Greenbrook has shown the need for legislation prohibiting non-renewal of residential leases without cause. A bill that would achieve this goal was introduced to the State Senate in January 2019, but it stalled.
Carroll suggested that Greenbrook was exploiting a loophole in the protections adopted during the pandemic. A moratorium on evictions is in place in New York State and covers tenants who show they are in financial difficulty due to COVID.
“We strengthened tenants’ rights in rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments, so they immediately went to the weakest link: those people who don’t have protections,” Carroll said of predatory landlords. “So now it is the job of the state legislature to make sure we protect all tenants when we return to Albany in January. “