Tasha Rose was surprised to receive a text message from her landlord Tuesday evening informing her she had a new roommate.

She says that a strange man arrived at her Bushwick apartment shortly thereafter, introduced himself as Robert, and informed her that “management” had just rented him the recently vacated room upstairs.

Like an estimated 25 percent of New York City renters, Rose hasn’t paid rent since March, when most of her freelance work dried up due to the coronavirus crisis. She believes that Robert was hired by her landlord to intimidate her and her last remaining roommate into vacating the apartment without a legal eviction proceeding, which she’s currently protected from by the state’s Safe Harbor Act.

Other stopgap measures, including a recently launched $100 million rental relief fund, aim to keep tenants in their homes and prevent an expected wave of 50,000 pandemic-related evictions in New York City. Critics say that many tenants in need of help are disqualified from receiving the aid, however, and that landlords like Rose’s will continue to deploy illegal harassment tactics to get unwanted tenants out.

Since he arrived, Robert has “been nothing but hostile, belligerent and threatening,” Rose said. “When I told him I have severe asthma, he immediately walked to the bodega, bought cigarettes and proceeded to smoke them in the common areas upstairs.”

A snippet of the text conversation between Rose and her landlord. Screenshot courtesy Tasha Rose

Yehuda Kohn, who is listed as the agent of Catherine Realty USA, LLC, which owns Rose’s building, could not be reached for comment. The business is registered at 199 Lee Ave. in Williamsburg, an address used by hundreds of anonymous landlords who own buildings in Brooklyn.

Rose locked Robert out of the apartment and blocked the door with a couch, but he kicked and slammed his way back in as she braced against the door, getting scratched and bruised in the scuffle.

When she called the police, “They said, ‘looks like this is your new roommate, you better learn to get along’ and left,” Rose said.

According to Imani Henry, founder of Equality for Flatbush, the police routinely side with landlords when renters report harassment or an illegal eviction, even when the law is on the tenants’ side.

Henry saw this play out in Crown Heights earlier this month, when a landlord couple broke into their tenants’ home at 1214 Dean St. and refused to leave, prompting a standoff between the building owners and protesters that had arrived to support the tenants.

When the police arrived, officers sided with the landlords.

“They said, ‘of course they can do that, of course they can move back.’ The police don’t know the law,” Henry said.

Equality for Flatbush has also fielded recent complaints from Flatbush renter Ginger Ging-Dwan Boyd, who recorded her landlord, Michael Weiss of Parkway Realty, breaking into her apartment using a power drill.

“The cops of the 70th Precinct did not arrest him. The cops did not file a police report, claiming that they were just ‘changing the locks,’” Boyd said in an Instagram post.

When Michael Weiss was contacted for comment on the situation with Ginger Boyd he said he “did not have a tenant like that in my lease rolodex,” before promptly hanging up.

New York’s COVID Rent Relief Program will help some struggling tenants by paying off their landlords with $100 million in federal funding from the CARES Act — a pot of money that’s insufficient to bail out the roughly 735,000 New York City households that haven’t paid rent since March.

The program also has extensive eligibility requirements. Tenants who earned too much before March 1, didn’t pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, can’t verify they’ve lost income during the pandemic or who receive Section 8 vouchers may be disqualified.

“I don’t qualify for this aid, and I don’t even know who would. It’s so specific it’s almost like it was tailored after one specific person who wrote their elected official,” Esteban Girón said, a member of the Crown Heights Tenant Union, during a livestreamed discussion with housing advocates Wednesday.

The two-week application window for the rent relief program opened Thursday, and already users have reported the website crashing.

In the meantime, Rose is in Bushwick anxiously awaiting Robert’s return. Volunteers from Equality for Flatbush are standing guard outside her apartment, and the group has tentative plans for a rally Saturday.

“He’s going to make my life a living hell,” Rose said. “And I really have no recourse. The cops are just going to say it’s a bad roommate situation and I’ve got to figure it out.”


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Alex Williamson

Alex Williamson is a Brooklyn-based reporter whose work has appeared in Brooklyn Eagle, Queens Eagle, Gothamist and elsewhere.

Join the Conversation

3

  1. Hi everyone,
    This is Tasha Rose. I just wanted to give a quick update on my situation.

    After several days of ZERO sleep or food, running on pure panic adrenaline of this violent man re-entering my home, I was able to secure legal representation via Communities Resist (646-974-8761) as well as find amazing support from my community. Equality for Flatbush & Mi Casa No Es Su Casa organized a rally held outside of my building on Friday July 17th. The pressure from the community finally led me to being able to file a police report for the assault (from which I am still healing from several large bruises visible as of this update on 7/27), it only took me FOUR attempts with multiple officers :/

    This henchman, who gave me and the officers a fake name ‘Robert’, returned to my home last Friday 7/24 demanding entry, accompanied by two officers from the 83rd precinct who refused to identify themselves by name or badge#. Finally, six officers, one sergeant, and two detectives later, ‘Robert’ (real name Charles Clemente) was arrested for assault and served with a restraining order.

    This is just the beginning of a long, stressful battle, but landlords need to be put on notice and KNOW that this evil, greedy, egregious behavior WILL NOT STAND. There are so many people in our communities who cannot fight back. We need to be LOUD, we need to demand justice, and we need to let our neighbors know we will be there for them.

    Please support and follow Equality for Flatbush (on Facebook & Instagram for timely updates) to stay informed and contribute. If you’d like to contact the landlords mentioned in this article to express your disgust/outrage (constant pressure to let them know WE ARE WATCHING is so, so vital), here is the contact info:

    My landlord at 181 Palmetto – Yehuda “Mike” Kohn
    718-781-2116
    Or by email at 7812116@gmail.com

    Michael Weiss and Parkway Realty:
    (347) 675-0622 / (718) 854-1400
    michael@parkwayny.com

    1214 Dean St:
    Gennaro Brooks Church- 718-506-6449
    Loretta Gendville- 347-244-3016

    1. Where is your moral high ground to stay in the unit while blocking access to someone else who wants to live there as well? Trying to understand your logic.

  2. This is such an interesting story. I feel for that tenant and understand how difficult it can be when dealing with local cops during a landlord tenant dispute. I actually came across this article because I was trying to find any tenants who have been represented by communities resist. I see all of these great reviews online but my experience so far has been a little questionable. Perhaps I am just expecting too much so I was just curious to know how the story in this article played out. For me, it sounds like they want me to take the quick 10k and leave so that landlords can be free to ignore the law and taking years off of our lives through stress and harrassment.

    I also recently moved to fltbush and my landlord stopped accepting rent from I recently moved to flatbush was moved to flatbush during the summer and one month after, my landlord disappeared and refused to take rent from all three tenants in this illegally converted two bedroom. Since then, we’ve had electricity shut off on us three times, a giant 6’5″ body builder standing outside of my door waiting for me to come out because he “needs the room”, a box of mice being put underneath our doors (caught them in the kitchen), broke in when we were out and stole our stove, bathroom sink, kitchen sink, and toilet, and removed the front door. Yes the judge ordered them to put it all back and they have finally after two months, but we still to this day have had no heat the entire winter. Tonight, as I came back from downtown they were in my apartment again without my knowledge. These is documented proof of them stealing the stuff and even video and yet still, they don’t care about boundaries.
    Why is that. And who knows what they were doing while I was gone. They made up something about having to fix the doorbell.
    Everything that I just stated is uploaded and available to be viewed online but am keeping it private until I figure out how to move forward. I can take the 10k and run only for them to do this to the next tenant but what does that change. I would rather they be held accountable for the monstrosities they put us through during this pandemic and take no money at all than for them to walk away with unscathed. My issue is that communities resist doesn’t really get that because they “usually don’t defend single” people (which is odd because I already informed them that the other tenants as well as the previous tenant of my room is willing to testify against this landlord). I’m thinking of just putting a down payment of a private attorney with my stimulus check because these public ones, as catchy as their names maybe, just don’t seem have an interest in the long term anti harassment game. Anyway, thank you for reading this. Lastly, if you know of any organizations or private attorneys that can help my situation, please feel free to reach out. Thank you and stay safe.

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