The mold in Bernadette Francis’ Flatbush apartment is so bad, she says she had to start sleeping in the lounge.

Furniture in her rent-stabilized apartment at 3400 Snyder Ave. is rotting, Francis has asthma, and a specialist has told her the mold is affecting her health. At least three others in the building also have serious mold complaints.

Bernadette Francis. Photo: Equality for Flatbush

Meanwhile, in the building next door — 3500 Snyder Ave. — a mushroom was growing on the wall of an apartment where a newborn baby lives, tenant advocates say. According to City buildings records, that building has six open violations for mold.

Now, Flatbush tenants and co-op shareholders alike are saying they’ve had enough of asking owners and management to make sure their homes are warm and dry.

Instead of keeping quiet, Francis has decided to share her story in hopes the problem behind the walls will be fixed for good.

“I’m trying to fight, and [the owners] are trying to find ways to get me out,” she told BK Reader.

The news comes as the City announced it is cracking down on 119 Brooklyn buildings that have tens-of-thousands of violations, including many for hazardous mold situations.

History of mold

Francis’ building and the building next door are both owned by JRD Management Corp, which also does business as Maxx Properties. In the buildings, some of the residents are co-op shareholders, and others are rent-stabilized tenants.

Francis said she tried to work with Maxx Properties to alleviate the problem, but after a representative came and told her to just wipe the mold away, it came back worse.

She said the mold was behind the walls and there was a leak in her kitchen. When a contractor came, they replaced the plaster, but did not replace the insulation behind the wall, which was “completely black.”

“Now it’s spreading, it’s eating away the backing of my new dresser. I had to put my clothes in plastic.”

In November, an allergy specialist assessed that Francis was likely exposed to the mold Alternaria, and that it was imperative it was fixed to help her “severe persistent asthma,” according to a diagnosis seen by BK Reader.

However Francis believes Maxx Properties is instead trying to push her and the other rent-stabilized tenants — many who are people of color — out of the building.

Equality For Flatbush — a grassroots anti-displacement organization — agrees, and has been helping tenants and shareholders connect to fight back.

“Maxx Properties is preying on aging Black shareholders and Black residents in particular,” E4F founder Imani Henry told BK Reader.

Community activist Imani Henry speaks to a crowd. Photo courtesy of Imani Henry

Henry pointed to a lawsuit Maxx Properties faced in Florida over the death of 72-year-old tenant Sara Cazin in one of its properties. In it, Cazin’s relatives claimed the mold in her home contributed to her death.

The case was dismissed in 2021. BK Reader could not immediately verify if there was a settlement in that case.

Henry said he had spoken to multiple residents in Maxx Properties buildings who told him there were many leaks that were not being taken care of. “The end result, if they don’t remove the mold, is people will die.”

Francis says when the contractor opened the wall behind her kitchen to fix this leak, the insulation was black with mold. She says, instead of removing the moldy insulation, they covered it up. Video: Supplied

Maxx responds

When reached for comment about mold at 3500 Snyder Ave., a Maxx Properties spokesperson said the building was owned by the co-operative, not by Maxx.

“Normally, shareholders/proprietary lessees are responsible for abating conditions in their apartments, unless caused by a condition that it is the responsibility of the cooperative to repair, in which case the cooperative corporation does the underlying repairs,” Horing Welikson Rosen & Digrugilliers PC attorney Richard T. Walsh said, on behalf of Maxx.

Walsh did not immediately respond to further questions regarding mold in other buildings.

3500 Snyder Ave. Photo: Google Maps.

Records show the 3500 Snyder Avenue Owners Corp. is owned by JRD Management Corp, Maxx Properties’ parent company.

Virginia Ravenscroft, 51, a co-op shareholder at another Maxx Properties building at 285 E 35th St, told BK Reader it was clear Maxx Properties wanted rent-stabilized tenants out.

“Maxx is responsible for the mold in rent-stabilized tenants’ apartments. These apartments are straight-up owned by Maxx Properties, and that’s where most of these mold problems are occurring.”

Whose responsibility?

According to the City, landlords of buildings with three or more apartments, or buildings of any size where a tenant has asthma, are required to keep tenants’ homes free of mold.

This includes safely repairing water leaks and correcting persistently high humidity levels, the City says.

The Department told BK Reader it was the property owner’s responsibility to remediate mold, under the law.

In the case of co-ops, those responsibilities can be split between management and shareholder, depending on the co-op’s bylaws.

It is common for shareholders to be responsible for mold within their unit, for example mold in a shower. However, if the mold is being caused by something behind the wall, for example a leak, then it’s likely management will be responsible, although shareholders should refer to their specific bylaws.

Mold in Francis’ apartment. Photo: Supplied
Mold in Francis’ apartment. Photo: Supplied

But for tenants like Francis, speaking up and hoping landlords and management companies take action is the only recourse.

“A lot of people in here, they keep their mouth closed. And that’s why I’m fighting.”

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

Join the Conversation

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  1. Whatever they do, DO NOT LET THEM TRIXK U OUT OF UR AOARTMEBT, TO FIX IT BECAUSE ONNCD U AGREE TO MOVE OUT OF UR APARTMENT, THEY WILL DESTABILIZE.
    SO IF YOU MIST LEAVE FOR THE REPAIRS, MAKE THEM PUTBIN WRITING THAT YOUR STAYS NOR LEASE CHANGES, AND THAT THE APARTMENT WILL NOT BE DESTABILIZED, ANDD AND TENANTS WILL BE ABLE TO RETURN TO THEIR HOMES. Di not take their word if they tell you , relocate you until they finish repairs, , many people have been deceived with this tactic and actually lose their homes.

  2. This is horrific! The greed and lack of human empathy that some landlords display is deeply problematic. Thank you for bringing attention to this situation and standing up for the most vulnerable among us!

    1. Thank you so much for reading, and for your feedback! We really appreciate it.

  3. That leak in the video is ridiculous. Where is all that water coming from? Was the leak fixed? If it’s coming from a wall, roof or plumbing, it may be the co-op’s responsibility not the owner of the rental units — if responsibility is a gray area or the source of the leak is hard to determine, those things may be contributing to the problem. The rental tenants may want to retain a lawyer to sort this out with the sponsor and the co-op. If the mold continues to reappear and spread, then the leak is ongoing.

    1. Thank you so much for this excellent advice for tenants. Thankfully they are now organizing and coming together to approach Maxx Properties as a collective with similar, ongoing issues, with the support of great local advocates. I hope they are able to access some low-cost counsel, I agree this would be an excellent move to try to sort out ongoing issues. Ms. Francis said the leak was fixed—to her knowledge—but the insulation that was rotten behind the wall was not removed or replaced, plus her mold issues are ongoing. This indicates, as you say, that the leak could be ongoing.

  4. Maxx Mgmt is notorious for doing this type of passing the buck. A co-op owner above my unit caused a leak that made my entire bathroom roof cave in…it took me fighting with Maxx for about a month before they would fix what needed to be fixed. I was all set to sue them & told them as much. they finally fixed it when I threatened to go to the media. they’re horrible.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, I’m sorry you went through this. Really appreciate you sharing your story here and adding to the other voices who are struggling to get leaks fixed!

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