Local Tenants Allege Harassment Tactics

Some tenants of one of Queens’ biggest landlords are complaining of harassment.

Tenants at a pair of buildings owned by the Lefrak Organization say that management has been filing baseless complaints against them in the hopes of moving them out of their rent controlled apartments.

However, Lefrak officials counter that the latest notices are the result of city legal requirements. “We’re not punishing anyone; we’re just complying with the law,” said Lefrak spokesman Edward Cortese.

Over the last year, tenants have been receiving notices threatening eviction for having a second, window mounted air conditioner or an enclosure on their balconies, said Janet Henne, president of the Brumar Plaza Tenants’ Association at 98 01 and 98 05 67th Ave. in Rego Park.

The notices say that the tenants are in violation of their leases because they are breaking a city law requiring exterior walls and facades be certified for safety.

The law requires the landlord to hire an engineer to inspect the building exterior for dangerous conditions, then file a report with the Department of Buildings. The inspections work in a five year cycle, with the reports for the most recent cycle due by February 2007.

One notice to a 98 05 67th Ave. tenant, dated June 6, says the notice is being sent because an inspection of the building exterior found a window air conditioner that had not been installed in the sleeve that comes with the apartment.

However, Henne said that many of the air conditioners and enclosures have been in place for years. Some tenants put the air conditioners in their kitchen areas because the air from the main air conditioner circulates poorly there, while putting up enclosures on their balconies to keep out pigeons, she said.

Lynn Hodge, a tenant at another Lefrak building at 72 10 41st Ave. in Woodside, said she received a similar eviction threat over the balcony enclosure, which she put up due to safety concerns about a young nephew, who visits frequently.

“Last year they took me to court five times,” she said.

Henne asserted that the management frequently takes rent stabilized tenants to court over things like late rent payments. While the complaints are often abandoned or dismissed, they still take time and energy to fight, she said, adding: “It’s terror tactics.”

Staffers at the Metropolitan Council on Housing, a housing advocacy organization, said tales like this are becoming more common as real estate values continue to rise. However, they could not find any specific complaints about Lefrak owned buildings.

Founded in 1901, the Lefrak Organization owns 71,000 apartments in New York City and New Jersey, including LeFrak City, the 5,000 apartment complex in Corona along with millions of square feet of commercial space.