Brooklyn Goddamn*, NY.
Predator Developers and corporate welfare cheats, Jed and David Walentas
The billionaire real-estate dynasty behind Brooklyn’s hipster DUMBO neighborhood bilked struggling tenants out of a fortune in rent, a new lawsuit alleges. The Walentas family — whose ties to Mayor de Blasio have been scrutinized in the investigations into the city’s pay-to-play scandal — allegedly filed false statements to help land $92 million in city tax breaks and other subsidies, the suit says. Then patriarch David, son Jed and associates used “extortion’’ and other alleged forms of deceit to jack up the rents at downtown 125 Court St. over the years and illegally pocket $10 million, according to the residents’ lawyer and the document, which was filed in Brooklyn federal court Tuesday. “This is a racketeering enterprise — it’s basically organized fraudulent activity,’’ the tenants’ lawyer, Matthew Berman, told The Post.
The plaintiffs even claim to have a company mole as a witness. That person is a former rental agent and Two Trees worker who acknowledged that the defendants “intentionally sat down and agreed in advance to take part in an unlawful scheme to illegally charge inflated rents to rent-stabilized tenants,” the suit says.
According to the suit, the family’s powerhouse company, Two Trees:
- Duped the city and state to net lucrative tax breaks meant for rent-stabilized and affordable-housing properties.
- “Committed extortion’’ by allegedly tricking tenants into shelling out more than they owed in monthly rent by sending phony notices saying rent was due.
- “Coerced’’ the cheaper-paying residents into vacating their apartments so the developer could charge new tenants 20 percent higher rents.
The lawsuit suggests that government officials turned a blind eye to the allegedly illegal shenanigans because they were “influenced no doubt by campaign contributions made by Defendants and their associates.
“It is a matter of public record that seven developers wrote checks totaling $245,000 to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Campaign for One New York before de Blasio announced plans for a streetcar along the Brooklyn waterfront, with stops near the developers’ projects, including $100,000 from Defendant Jed Walentas,’’ the suit says. De Blasio has denied any connection between the big bucks and pushing his street-car plan.
Court papers describe the Walentases as a $4 billion family empire “known for its singular role in transforming the Brooklyn neighborhood of “DUMBO” (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) where the company’s holdings include 12 buildings comprising more than 3 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate.’’ The family also is behind the $3 billion conversion of the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg into luxury pads.
Two Trees bought the 125 Court St, property at Atlantic Avenue in 2003 for $16.5 million, according to reports. They then went after millions of dollars in public funding by promising to provide rent-stabilized and affordable housing, the suit says. But over the years, the developers knowingly misrepresented the market value of units so they could illegally inflate rents, the court papers say.The lawsuit adds that “despicably, Defendants even perpetrated this fraud upon the low-income tenants of the units designated as ‘affordable housing.’ ” The tactics led to a 300 percent tenant turnover rate at the building between 2005 and 2013, or 10 times the citywide figure, the suit says.
Finally. Even though this lawsuit is in it’s nascent stage, let this be the absolute confirmation of the superficial intentions and broken false promise to end the tale of two cities Mayor de Faustio exhorted on his public inauguration ceremony 3 years ago, and the horrid existence of the gentrification industrial complex of avaricious real estate and venture capital interests, compromised government officials and an complicit apparatus of public relations firms, housing website services and a fawning news media to drive up combined fabricated speculations of rental and housing market rates.
These two repulsive maggots are just a few of the enabling predatory developer cabal that is the Real Estate Board Of New York, of whom Dad and Boy Walentas are members, which is beyond any doubt where the last word on whatever legislation regarding what areas get re- and up-zoned, what exemptions are dealt and how the hardhats will get compensated for the difficult and at times perilously hazardous work they will do to build their unsightly out of scale behemoths in established hurricane flood zones.
As this damning lawsuit states, they allegedly utilized the dirty tactic exploiting the perennially outlandish trendy status of the borough of Brooklyn via following the constant refraining bogus real estate speculation derived from the news media (none more garrilous than the NY Times real estate section) and various apt. rental service providers and blogrolls like Streeteasy and Propertyshark. They also got millions in tax breaks from the 421a law to provide a sliver of affordable housing and reneged on that state contract by raising the rents on the rent-stabilized tenants on their building on 125 Court St. in downtown Brooklyn.
This pilfering of tax payer and tenant dollars and their collective sanity and dignity is akin to other odious ploys to drive out poorer and even modest salaried tenants who are deemed unworthy and uncool. Like those who offer lowball buyouts and gut renovations of neighboring apartments. The refusal of basic utilities and maintenance requests; The denial of check payments; And the use of hired goons to intimidate residents by stalking and violating their privacy. These fiendish tactics are bit more sophisticated than the days when slumlords used the dregs of society; gangs and rodents and the use of arson to free up their buildings and properties. Although the latter tactic might be making a not so subtle comeback. Not to be overlooked is the neutered, weak and borderline indifferent enforcement of the Department of Buildings officers.
All this was made possible to make the branding of the hottest borough in the world (but not the world’s borough, that was dubiously regaled to Queens) that made it the faux luxury resort theme park, and upscale bar and food court that it is today. With the help of dispensing a few hundred large to a 501 (c) (4) kitty run in a government office in City Hall.
The devious philanthropy provided by the Walentases towards our whoring and now troubled mayor also led to minor to non-existent monitoring of their new developments, like the former Domino sugar plant and the hastening process of the idiotic BQX trolley line that happens to traverse their Blade Runner towers of glass properties. The latter giving them access to the offices of city hall via a shady group concern or how they are more commonly know as “friends of the BQX”, not at all as pathetically opaque as the “agents of the city”.
Speaking of those “agents”, the wormtongue adviser firm, BerlinRosen that was illegally loitering in the conference rooms of city hall during meetings regarding city services and planning represents Two Trees. And also the abominable Forest City Ratner, who for the past decade and a half has been destroying and rebuilding the downtown Brooklyn area to the detriment of the residents who don’t reside in their towers and the sunlight that used to shine there. The BQX, not so coincidentally will run by the streets by Ratner’s synthetic metropolis.
The slithering machinations the Gentrification Industrial Complex has done to reshape the shorelines of Brooklyn has wreaked havoc on the rest of the borough, causing rents to ludicrously skyrocket even in still high crime risk areas like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and East New York, in still middle class and poor areas like Crown Heights and Sunset Park, and is now bleeding into the middle class enclaves in Queens, none more apparent than the hastening out-of-scale tower development in Long Island City.
It also is having a pernicious effect on the area median rates for affordable housing, influencing the fabricated speculative market rates that the Walentas duo engaged in, even leading low level slumlords to exploit this hustle in addition to devaluing their buildings and denying tenants rights and demands for maintenance. Which may have not only led to the further tax paying sanctions of public funded condo housing, but also the incredible record rise of the homeless consensus, which includes working families and veterans.
This lawsuit, long overdue and looks pretty cut and dry, cannot be more timely since it’s coinciding with the impending hearings with D.A. Preet Bharara and the meltdown of their of their long time pal and personal aide, Mayor “Big Slow”” de Faustio” de Blasio and his merry band of neo-liberal deputies and staffers, who still insist on claiming legality for their chicanery and that they have committed no wrong-doing. They will probably cite precedent by mentioning when Donald Trump was buying elected officials and exploiting similar loopholes back in his baby predator days building hotels and a shrine tower to himself in the 80’s
This may be a stretch and maybe hoping too much, but these subhumans might actually see hard time for their twisted ties and underhanded nefarious acts. Maybe it will bring a semblance of closure to all those choosing between eating and paying rent, all those trying to transition from a crappy existence in an apt. filled with mold and vermin, a room with barely any privacy and security, or shacking up in hotel room with no kitchen at the mercy of security contractors and subsiding on shitty city provided sandwiches for lunch and dinner as they wait to win the lottery for that sliver of 20 % affordable housing because of the greed for money and land of Two Trees and the concentration and control of power for our corrupt mayor and his staff.