Collapsed ceilings, water and heat cut off, rats and roaches running rampant and lead paint contamination are some of the issues tenants at 567 St. John’s Place say they have faced due to poor building management.

And they’re demanding change.

On Sunday, renters in the eight-unit building joined tenant advocacy group Crown Heights Tenant Union to call on the City to take action and remove landlord Gerard Tema from ownership.

According to CHTU, a number of tenants in the building filed a 7A complaint in Brooklyn Housing Court June 2021, accusing Tema of being a slumlord who had allowed more than 400 violations to accumulate in the building. The complaint asked the court to appoint an administrator to take over management of the building if dangerous conditions weren’t fixed within five days, which tenants say they were not. Despite hearings wrapping up in December, the judge has not yet issued a ruling in the case, CTHU says.

The City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development shows 567 St. John’s Place has 412 open violations. According to CHTU, even HPD lawyers have called for removal of Tema from ownership in the 7A case.

When contacted by Gothamist, Tema said the building was due to be inspected by the city, adding he was having difficulty making repairs due to tenants withholding rent over the issues. “Most of the complaints are already fixed,” Tema told Gothamist. “If you don’t pay, how do you have money to fix?”

Tema said that if tenants didn’t start paying, once repairs were completed, he would be taking them to court.

One tenant, Ayanna Dore, told Gothamist she noticed some issues when she moved into the building in March 2020, but was told by Tema the pandemic had made it difficult to access supplies, and the issues would be fixed as soon as possible.

“I took the apartment, and within a few months of living here, everything started falling apart,” Dore said. “Bed bugs, mice, roaches. My ceiling was leaking, the floors were [coming] up.”

Dore, who gave birth during the pandemic, said her baby had scratches from crawling on the floor. She also said the conditions had worsened her asthma and made it difficult for her to recover from a recent COVID-19 infection.

However, Dore said she wasn’t going to move and was going to join the fight for action so the problems didn’t fall to later tenants.

“If we don’t fight, if we don’t get things done, how is that going to fix the problem for anybody else who can’t move or anybody else that they try to bring in after us?” she asked.

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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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