Raising a clenched fist, Public Advocate Letitia James stood amongst Newkirk Avenue tenants who, for years, have lived in a building plagued by cracked and collapsed ceilings, mold, rodents, and bugs, and yelled, “We need action!”
“We’ll contact the mayor’s administration and let them know 2010 Newkirk Avenue needs action, and they need it now,” James said yesterday, as the residents around her erupted into hopeful cheers and said that, after years of fighting for their landlord company to make lasting fixes to their building, they’re crossing their fingers that the public advocate’s attention will translate into a safer place for them to live.
James named 2010 Newkirk Avenue, owned by the notorious Moshe Piller, as one of the most mismanaged buildings in New York City yesterday, when she toured sites owned by individuals placed on her “Worst Landlords Watchlist,” which includes individuals who own close to 6,800 buildings throughout the five boroughs.
Created under former Public Advocate and now-Mayor Bill de Blasio, the landlords list includes individuals who own at least one building with a litany of problems – for buildings with fewer than 35 units, there must be an average of at least three open, serious violations per unit to be placed on the list. For larger buildings with 35 units or more there must be an average of at least two open, serious violations per unit.
James toured 2010 Newkirk Avenue, which has 36 apartments, with the Flatbush Tenant Coalition (a local group associated with the Flatbush Development Corporation that helps neighbors fight for their housing rights) after holding a press conference at City Hall announcing the worst landlords list – on which Piller (and his company, MP Management) is prominently placed. Piller owns sites throughout the city, including a building at 125 East 18th Street that too has had ceiling collapses, rodent infestations, black mold, and more. Piller could not be reached for comment.
“I’ve been here going on six years, and there have pretty much been problems since I moved in,” said Tasheema McNeil, who pays $1,173 a month for her one-bedroom apartment at 2010 Newkirk Avenue. “The ceiling collapsed almost a year ago, and he just patched it last week. Before that, there was just a hole. The kitchen floor is caving in. There’s a fire hazard with one of the electrical sockets that’s falling out of the wall. Plus, to deal with the water problems in the building, they made a hole in the ceiling of the basement, and now we have a rodent problem, mosquitos, flies.”
Gylen Bryant, who also lives at the Newkirk Avenue site, has for four years been battling Piller in housing court to try and deal with an increasing number of issues in her apartment, including cracks in the walls and ceiling, a mosquito infestation, and mold.
“My son has developed asthma since he’s been here – he was hospitalized with asthma,” Bryant said.
“Mosquitos are always flying around,” continued Bryant, who noted she has to change the fly paper she hangs in the bedroom at least three times a week because of the number of mosquitos. “I had to take my son to the doctor because he had 50 mosquito bites all over him. There’s sitting water, and in my bathroom it can start pouring water like Niagara falls. Sometimes I get trapped in the bathroom because it’s pouring water in the doorway, and I don’t know where that water is coming from. If I put the faucet on, it backs up in the tub.”
Additionally, Bryant said “something black with a stem” had grown from her ceiling – which her superintendent managed to get rid of.
As part of her focus on the city’s “worst landlords,” James called on the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development “to better enforce laws” and ensure that tenants’ problems are being addressed – which can include HPD bringing criminal contempt charges against landlords.
“At a time when we’re trying to build affordable housing, let’s start with the existing affordable housing,” James said.
Tenant advocates threw their support behind the worst landlords list.
“At Newkirk, for years we have had almost no real repairs in our apartments, or in the building overall,” Altagrace Aime, a Flatbush Tenant Coalition leader said in a press release from James’ office. ” The repairs that are done are patch-work, and the building is deteriorating. There are water leaks all over the place, inside and out in the public areas. The basement is full of exposed wires. Our landlord and management harass the old tenants to evict us, even though they get their rent. We need someone to help us fight for our rights. I know Public Advocate Letitia James is here for us, and will help us by publicizing this list. We elect our public officials to protect our rights; by releasing this list, we know the public advocate will push our landlord to do repairs and make our apartments safe for us to live in. We are proud to be working with the public advocate to help tenants get justice.”
Kelita Dieudonne, who also works with the Flatbush Tenant Coalition, noted that the building at 2010 Newkirk has had no lock on the front door for more than three weeks.
“The fire escape to the roof was wired shut, and we have no way out in an emergency,” Dieudonne said in the same media statementt. “Management always says they are on top of it, but they never do anything. They want us out. With the public advocate’s support we know the landlord will be more willing to do what they are supposed to do. ”
James stressed that individuals living in poor conditions who have not received the appropriate response from their building management are encouraged to contact her office at (212) 669-7250 or send an email to GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov. If you are submitting your landlord for the watch list, the email communication should include in the subject line: Worst Landlord’s Watchlist. Tenants are reminded to include contact information, building address, and notes on the nature of the housing violation.
To see the worst landlords list, you can go here.