Bronx Tenants Facing 'Massive Amount of Neglect' Ask Court for Building Administrator

Sunday, December 16, 2018
Ivan Pereira
AM New York

After their landlord allegedly blew a deadline written into a legal settlement, tenants of a Soundview building are asking a court to have an administrator tackle the maintenance issues they say have been plaguing them for more than a year, including a complete lack of cooking gas, shoddy elevator service and leaks.

The tenants at 1210 Stratford Ave., which contains rent stabilized units, are slated to make their case in Bronx housing court later this week. The lawsuit, which names Marquis Realty LLC and two of its representatives, Sam David and Lazer Kviat, urges the judge to have an administrator use the money collected through rent and possibly take out a loan to repair the residence. Currently, the building has more than 180 open code violations, including for failing to maintain the elevator and walls, according to tenants' lawyers and the city Department of Housing and Development's website.

"This type of request doesn't happen if it's just one or two tenants making a complaint," said Russell Crane, one of the Legal Aid Society attorneys representing 21 tenants in the Soundview building. "(There) has to be a massive amount of neglect by a building owner, and that's what we have here."

HPD sued the landlord in April on behalf of the tenants, and they reached an agreement in August that required Marquis Realty to restore cooking gas service by Oct. 8, according to the tenants' lawsuit, which was filed last month. But the deadline passed without the issue being addressed, according to tenants, who say they are still relying on hot plates.

A city inspector sent to the building after the court agreement but before the deadline found that the landlord had not taken any steps to restore cooking gas service or even submitted a permit to do so, according to Benjamin Seibel, another attorney for the tenants.

"There seems to be a lack of respect (for) orders from the court," Seibel said.

An HPD spokesman said the agency could not comment because of ongoing litigation. Calls to Marquis Realty were not returned.

One tenant, Elbyn Salazar, said Sunday that he has seen the super working over the past week, but has not received information about the fixes planned by the building.

"Just now [the building staff] are making holes on the walls and they said they are looking . . . for [gas] leaks," said Salazar, 79, who has lived in the building for 36 years. "I don't know how true that is."

Salazar said he is tired of using the hot plate given to him by his landlord.

"We had to use that and buy our food, and that costs a lot," Salazar said.

Salazar's neighbor, Maritza Pérez, said there should be more prompt plans to deal with leaks that have left her with mold in her home.

"The superintendent told me that the landlord had no plans to fix the roof until the warmer weather, and we are just at the start of the winter," Pérez said in a statement.

Should the tenants be successful, the administrator would be given a report from the city detailing all of the repair work that should be undertaken in the building, according to the tenants' attorneys.

"If the money in the rent isn’t sufficient to make repairs, the administrator can take out a loan from the city to pay for the repairs," Crane said.

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