Thursday, August 21, 2008

Landlord accused of harassing longtime tenants

From the City Room this afternoon:

A group of tenant advocates has accused a landlord that acquired 17 rent-regulated buildings on the Lower East Side last year of aggressively harassing tenants in a concerted effort to oust longtime residents from the buildings so that the units could be renovated and the rents raised.

All the buildings, which are rent-regulated, are in an area bounded by First Avenue and Avenue B and East 13th and Houston Streets.


Jill said...

I live in one of these buildings. We have had almost half the apartments vacated in the past few months. And once the tenants leave, we never know where they went or what happened to them. We've organized a tenants group but the people who leave are the ones who didn't join the group. Some that we did know left because they decided it just wasn't worth the living conditions. One had a new baby and were so freaked out by the construction, so off to Brooklyn they went.

Who moved in? Not one of the new tenants is over 25. They are renting 400 square foot renovated apartments (3 rooms--2 bedrooms and a common area with a kitchen and very small space for maybe a chair) for $3200 on a third floor walk up in a very filthy building. Probably a little less for the upper floors. Two to an apartment--$1500 to live in the East Village is probably the going rate, crazy. Dozens of bars but nowhere to buy a fresh piece of fish. Who needs food when you can live on alcohol?

The problem is that the landlord operates just on this side of the law. The super was heard recently telling one of the rent stabilized tenants that he doubted if he could adequately fix whatever the problem is "because you know what the landlord wants to do to you folks." They make a repair, but they make it purposely bad. They turn off the hot water for half a day so that by the time the complaint is registered, it has been "fixed." They don't properly register with DOB for permits and then "fix" the paperwork months later, and DOB could give a shit. There are absolutely no penalties or oversight. They take months to renovate an apartment and clean the hallway rarely, so there is dust everywhere, it comes up through the floorboards and infests every crook--I'm still cleaning out shoes that I hadn't worn that are coated in plaster dust from 6 months ago.

But is a dirty hallway enough to go to court? The workers start before legal hours and end after they are allowed to be here, making a lot of noise. Does DOB do anything? No, they are worried about cranes falling, if that.

They evicted my neighbor out and literally threw his stuff down down 6 flights of stairs. Kicked it down. Then he won in court and got to come back.

I could go on about the small things they have done, they all add up, but none individually are enough to make a case that sounds really compelling.

For me, they first wouldn't accept our rent checks. After a lot of arguing they finally realized they didn't have a case. Now they have stopped sending the rent bill. I still pay and they cash the checks, but it's disconcerting. They leave the other people's rent bills in the crook of their door so anybody can take it. But they only do this for the rent stabilized tenants. The high rent payers must get their bill in the mail, like normal people.

Oh I could go on, but I'll stop now. Sorry to be so long winded.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jill (and welcome back!)

Thanks for leaving this comment. A friend of mine lives in one of these buildings and has shared similar stories.

Anonymous said...

look at who owns those buildings. 'nuff said.

boweryboogie said...

holy crap! wow, jill, i don't know how you can live with such despair. it must be so hard living like that, knowing that the "big fish" don't care about the situation.

thanks for sharing.