BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Steve Raptis owns a 20-unit building in Gravesend, Brooklyn. He says the people living in apartment 18 have broken mailboxes, windows and the front door lock, stolen from neighbors, and tapped into the hallway electricity to power their apartment.
"They’re gonna put the building on fire the way we’re going," Raptis said. "They’re running the building into a crack den."
He says four of his other tenants have moved out because of them, and two more are about to leave.
"I have tenants in this building. They are very nice families, very hard-working people. I feel very bad for them," Raptis said. "I ask them to patient, but how long can they be patient?"
He needs them to be patient because he has not been able to evict the people in unit 18.
"If there had never been a pandemic, I would be in court for sure," said Scott Gross, Raptis said..
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s blanket 90-day ban on evictions during the worst of the pandemic was meant to protect tenants who lost their jobs from ending up in the street because they could not pay rent. But it also protected tenants like the people living in Apartment 18.
The governor's initial moratorium expired June 20, allowing some eviction cases to move forward.
Raptis' attorney, Scott Gross, filed a request for emergency hearings in Brooklyn Housing Court in late June and again in early July to evict those in Apartment 18, but has not yet been given a court date.
"It’s super frustrating for me because I can’t get off of square one," said Gross.
What makes this case even more surprising is that the landlord says the tenants of Apartment 18 have no lease, have never paid him a dime and are squatters.
In late March, the lease holder in Apartment 18 died. Days later, the superintendent found five strangers living there.
“He says, 'What are you doing here? Get out.' We called the police. They showed some handwritten notes. The police say 'Well, you have to go to court then.' I says, 'I don’t understand. Never seen these people before. They’re drug addicts,'" Raptis said.
Gross claims Brooklyn Housing Court is discriminating against landlords, saying tenants' filings for emergency hearings have been granted during the pandemic, but his "order to show cause" is being ignored.
There has been no comment yet on this case from the Office of Court Administration.
It is an extreme example, but looking through all the filings in Brooklyn and Queens, there are several examples of building owners being owed thousands upon thousands of dollars from tenants before the coronavirus hit, and the pandemic has only made evicting them a much longer process.