Bronstein Properties, which is facing a class-action lawsuit from over 60 tenants, is receiving million in tax benefits for allegedly non-existent renovations in its rent-regulated apartments.
The firm, which owns more than 100 rent-regulated buildings, has $4.3 million in active J-51 tax abatements, according to data provided by non-profit group Housing Rights Initiative to Real Estate Weekly.
The J-51 benefit is provided to property owners who renovate old apartment buildings. Tenants claim that the firm fabricated improvements in its properties. Bronstein did not respond to a request for comment.
For its data, HRI collated information from the Department of Finance. The group’s list includes 45 properties, the majority of which are in Queens. About half of the properties already had J-51 tax benefits when bought by Bronstein.
HRI, whose work pushed forward the class-action lawsuit against Bronstein, has also contributed to cases against landlords including Stellar Management and the Parkoff Organization. The Bronstein lawsuit was filed by law firm Newman Ferrara.
The property that provides the most financial benefit for Bronstein is 1780 West 3rd Street in Gravesend, Brooklyn. The six-story, 98-unit building comes with $863,167 in J-51 abatements. Meanwhile, 90-19 88th Avenue, a four-story property in Woodhaven, Queens, generated $404,960 in J-51 tax benefits. Both properties did not have J-51 benefits when acquired by Bronstein.
“Bronstein is bludgeoning our affordable housing stock in broad daylight, while receiving millions of dollars in tax breaks to preserve affordable housing. This contradiction represents a vicious slap in the face to the tenants and taxpayers of New York City, who deserve better from their government,” said Aaron Carr, HRI’s founder and executive director.
“At a time when federal funding cuts loom darkly over the budget of New York, the city and state should revoke tax benefits from those who blatantly disregard our housing laws. With 23,000 homeless children in New York City, our tax dollars have better places to be and better place to go than into the pockets of those who cheat, steal, and game our system.”
According to an earlier report from the New York Times, Bronstein tenants say that the company falsely claimed renovations to increase rents in its rent-regulated properties. In some cases, Bronstein has doubled the rent in its apartment buildings. At 43-32 47th Street in Sunnyside, Queens, the firm increased the rent for a two-bedroom unit from $933.14 to $2,250. About $68,000 in renovations would be necessary to justify the increase. However, a former tenant said that the layout remained the same.
A studio apartment at 309 West 57th Street had a similar price hike, with the rent going from $932.65 to over $2,500. About $83,000 in renovations would be necessary to justify the increase. According to the report, inspections on the properties show that Bronstein did not perform the necessary work to justify the increases.