A group of protesters managed to stop what officials called a heartless and illegal eviction of tenants from a Brooklyn residence on Tuesday night.
The tenants living in a four-story LGBTQ-friendly home in Crown Heights accused their landlords of arriving unannounced Monday to push them out and move their own family in.
They claim the lanlords, Gennaro Brooks-Church and ex-wife Loretta Gendville, barged into a bedroom where one tenant was in the buff after showering.
The eleven tenants in the nine-bedroom home had lost work and income amid the coronavirus in March and refused to fork over rent from April to June as the pandemic surged across the Big Apple.
“It took me months to receive unemployment,” said 24-year-old tenant Angelina Martinez. “I filed my taxes in February and I haven’t received my return. There are so many people here who have not received any kind of financial assistance during this pandemic.”
When they sent the landlords an email saying they were now ready to pay for July rent, they were ignored, according to Martinez.
“We sent an email on the first saying everyone was able to pay rent. We requested they respond in 24 hours and received no response,” Martinez said.
Instead, Brooks-Church and his ex-wife showed up with their kids and two dogs ready to move in.
“They came with furniture and beds. They said they were immediately moving in and charging into the house,” said Martinez. “The kids were saying it’s so nice to be home.”
Martinez, who works as a barista, said Gendville put her hands on her roommate, attempting to pull her out of the bedroom while unclothed.
“They actively tried to drag her out of the bedroom,” she said.
Later that night, Brooks-Church dozed off in one of the bedrooms while his tenants tried to sleep in adjacent rooms.
“We had to sleep with him in the house. He overtook one of the bedrooms. We spent Monday night and Tuesday with Brooks-Church inside the house,” said Martinez.
“We are all queer women of color in this house. There are sex workers in here. This has been a safe haven for us and we’ve never seen him before,” she added.
On Tuesday afternoon, a U-Haul arrived, with landlords and workers confiscating furniture, according to Martinez.
“They started unloading the house and went off with the mattress. They started taking things out of the bedroom from downstairs and we started screaming,” Martinez said.
After tenants reached out to Equality for Flatbush, an anti-policing, anti-gentrification advocacy group, advocates organized online, calling for support on the scene and posting the phone numbers for the landlords on their social media pages.
Dozens of protesters arrived Tuesday to shout down the landlords who arrived with additional men Tuesday night to push through the front door.
“People should not be paying rent at a time when people are not working,” said Em, an organizer with the group. “We need to abolish rent. We need to abolish landlords. They are exploiting their tenants,” she said.
For now, three tenants remain, including Martinez who is moving out in two weeks. One of the tenants is recovering from a traumatic brain surgery, said Martinez.
Brooks-Church owns “an artistic green contracting and designing firm” with “a focus to Turn New York Green,” according to his website. He was featured in a 2018 New York Times article outlining the lengths he went to in covering his Carroll Gardens house with a patterned wall of plants.
He has denied all allegations.
“This is absolutely untrue,” Brooks-Church told The Post. “I’m a white male. I’m being demonized for being a white male.”
When asked about the tenants’ version of events, Brooks-Church described it as “pure lies” and denied staying over Monday night a commandeered bedroom.
“I never told them to leave and I gave them keys,” he added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March signed an executive order implementing an eviction moratorium on non-payment evictions to ease the burden of renters who have lost their jobs.
But with that moratorium set to expire on June 20, the governor in May extended the order through Aug. 20 with key changes limiting the protection to anyone eligible for unemployment benefits or “otherwise facing financial hardship” due to the pandemic.
State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) said based on the tenants’ account, the eviction would be illegal regardless of moratorium eligibility.
“Yes, [it’s] completely illegal to do what is described here even without the moratorium,” Salazar tweeted Tuesday night, adding in another post that Brooks-Church “should be publicly shamed.”
Source: Newzandar News
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