Rae Carruth · Rosa Jimenez · Real Estate

Plus cop games, the other Charles Bronson, and more

Eve teased an August piece from The Cut about “The Eco-Yogi Slumlords of Brooklyn,” and as is my solemn duty as the on-site lecturer in 718 real estate, I am now weighing in on Bridget Read’s article. Read’s ability to render the outlines of the situation like a Booth cartoon in the New Yorker makes for good, well, Read-ing:

Angie Martinez, a 24-year-old Brooklyn native and barista, returned home to the Crown Heights rowhouse she shared with eight roommates to find her landlords, Gennaro Brooks-Church and his ex-partner, Loretta Gendville, crowding the front door with their three children, two dogs, two handymen, and a mattress. Martinez had been paying them $865 a month via Venmo for a room with one window, no heat, and no working fire alarm. The run-down four-story structure, classified as a single-family home by the City of New York, had been illegally converted and rented out by the room.

That last clause makes my skin crawl; my previous domicile, a double duplex I shared with my brother and his family, was a wood-panelled DIY-delusion money pit we spent the better part of the teens converting back from illegal-SRO status. When contractors in the 11215 gather around campfires, it’s our kookbag house with its unsistered roof beams and electrical outlets repaired with flammable spray foam that they talk about. Quoth the roofer: “Seven [grand] more. …Boo!”

Anyway, back to Dean Street. The cops were called. An occupation was organized. It became clear that Brooks-Church and Gendville, despite owning “two businesses and six properties in one of the country’s most expensive real-estate markets[,] were apparently homeless.” Neither name sounded familiar to me on its own, but Gendville apparently ran Area, a ubiquitous “local chain of yoga studios, spas, and children’s stores” that I remember well; Brooks-Church’s parents are a crime story in and of themselves, according to Read’s piece, and the couple sound like a lot of bosses: good at a single aspect of a business, scattered and defensive when it came to the others. Sounds like they operated the same way as landlords:

Tenants say the gas was routinely shut off when the landlords failed to pay the bill (Gendville is currently a defendant in four civil suits filed by Brooklyn Union Gas and Con Edison). … Gendville and Brooks-Church weren’t registered as the landlords with the Department of Housing Preservation & Development. Instead, they posted signs on their rental properties that warned DO NOT LET ANYONE FROM THE CITY IN. NO EXCEPTIONS. The reason became clear in 2018: After the Fire Department responded to a small oven fire, the FDNY reported the illegal conversion and the couple were fined more than $2,000. Over the past two years alone, according to the city, Gendville has racked up $49,130 in unpaid fines from a host of violations at 1214.

Then, as their portfolio becomes increasingly sprawling and top-heavy, Gendville starts boning a 22-year-old yoga teacher, and that’s when Read’s article really gets schadenfreudilarious. You’re sort of wondering if this really qualifies as true crime, but you’re still eagerly inhaling this account of buttholery, and then Stifler’s yoga mom and her boytoy get clipped for shoplifting over a grand of shit from Whole Foods. Unclear what happened to Burning Boy between then and when Gendville and Brooks-Church tried to squat on their own property, but

That Gendville and Brooks-Church tried to move into a house that was still occupied by tenants, in the middle of a highly publicized eviction moratorium, is perhaps the most revealing indicator of their distress. It is also an indication of how little they feared punishment.

Read goes on to note that, in NYC, the housing market isn’t all that interested in literally housing people, and this is what happens when you treat a basic human need as a financial instrument first. This is a great, infuriating article, and between the unpunished slumlording and the anti-mask coda, it’s going to remind you of a certain other NYC landlord who’s a piece of shit. Happy Wednesday! — SDB

Thanks for picking my next bonus-review book: Carolyn Murnick’s The Hot One. I’ve been looking forward to this crimoir for a while; if you’ve been looking forward to my review for a while, remember, those are for paid subscribers — so skip the chocolates and give yourself or a sweetheart the gift of a subscription!

And now, I give myself and Eve the gift of clearing off our story budget! A few noteworthy items we’ve had rattling around:

  • Rosa Jimenez is finally freed after eight years behind bars for a crime everyone agreed she didn’t commit…but of course the system had one more indignity in store. [Texas Monthly]

  • Charles Bronson (…not that one; I made the same mistake, but Hey, It’s That Vengeance Typecastee died in 2003) told a coroner’s inquest he would have — and still might — hunted down the “scumbag” who gave his ex-wife the drugs that led to her death. [Stoke Sentinel]

  • The warden at Metropolitan Correctional Center quit “after a yearlong tenure marred by the rampant spread of the coronavirus, inmates' complaints about squalid conditions, a smuggled gun and an inmate's death.” MCC is where Jeffrey Epstein took his own life; interim warden Eric Williams is the facility’s fourth chief in 18 months. [ABC 7]

  • VAULT Studios has a new daily podcast called The Daily Crime. The team behind Bardstown and The True Crime Chronicles is going daily “on cases around the country.” (I talked to co-host Reed Redmond last year about Mobbed Up.) [WTSP 10]

  • And since it’s The Week Before The Big Game, let’s wrap things up with a longread from GQ (and later, 2002’s Best American Crime Writing) about the cult of Rae Carruth. [Deadspin] — SDB

Thursday on Best Evidence: The Cosby lawyer, and a murder at Crater Lake.

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