Housing dept. drops plans to oust Jackson Ave. landlord
A proposal for a noted nonprofit housing group to take over a troubled Woodstock apartment building was scuttled at the last minute, upsetting beleaguered tenants – including some on the verge of eviction.
The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development dropped a petition to turn over management of the rent-stabilized building at 755 Jackson Ave. to the Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association after the landlord fixed nearly half of the outstanding violations. But tenants contend they’re still living with substandard conditions that include rats, roaches and a leaking roof.
“I feel defeated. I feel like there’s no hope,” tenant Allan Rosado said after a May 6 Housing Court hearing on the proposed Banana Kelly takeover was canceled. “I feel like when the de Blasio Administration came in that would put a stop to the old administration ways.”
For Rosado and other residents of the 10-unit building near the corner of Jackson and East 156th Street, the turnaround by city lawyers leaves tenants with a landlord they say has neglected the building since taking it over last year. Some tenants, who have been withholding rent because of poor conditions in the building, fear the owner, Stabilis Fund II, a fund of Stabilis Capital Management, will push ahead with eviction proceedings.
Several tenants are being taken to court or have received demands for rent – the step prior to court proceedings, according to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board’s Elise Goldin, who began working with residents when the building went into foreclosure in 2013. Those tenants “are at real, real risk for” losing their apartments, she said.
A spokeswoman for Stabilis who insisted she not be named for this story, said the company does not comment on ongoing court proceedings.
The housing department dropped its petition for a new administrator on the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his $41 billion housing plan. Along with a promise to add 200,000 new and preserved affordable apartments in the next ten years, the mayor said landlords who neglect their properties, then pressure renters to leave, will be taken to task.
“You’re also going to see a very heavy emphasis on enforcement in general,” the mayor said. His administration will work to prevent “some bad landlords” from “pushing renters out of rent-regulated units, and harassing tenants, or taking other actions to open up those units for market conversion,” he said.
Housing commissioner Vicki Been added that the City will provide “more assistance to tenants who are facing evictions” stemming from landlord harassment.
The Jackson Ave. tenants contend they’ve endured a spate of bad landlords – according to HPD, nearly $70,000 in emergency repairs have been made there since 2004. Stabilis inherited a number of outstanding repairs when the previous owner foreclosed on a loan to Stabilis, which took over the building in June 2013.
Residents say they didn’t hear from Stabilis for months, prompting a rally in December during which tenants demanded repairs and new leases.
In January, tenants petitioned HPD to make Banana Kelly the administrator of the building, which would have put the organization in charge of leases, collecting rent and making repairs.
On May 5th, the day before the hearing for the petition, housing advocates working with tenants learned the petition had been withdrawn and the hearing cancelled.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Angelica Rosado, who is married to Allan Rosado. “I was hoping that would save me from getting evicted. Now I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
In January 2013, while in foreclosure, the building entered the city’s Alternative Enforcement Program – HPD’s list of the 200 worst-maintained buildings in the city – with 130 open violations. According to the housing dept., that number has since dropped to 69, leading to a withdrawal of the petition to take the building away from Stabilis.
The Stabilis spokeswoman said in an email “all inherited violations have been corrected and we are on time to have all violations corrected by the end of this month.” She added “any remaining interior violations of record are largely in apartments where tenants have refused to grant access to inspectors where the work has already been done.”
Though the administrator petition was dropped, the building will remain in the housing department’s Alternative Enforcement Program until all open repairs and violations are completed. Meanwhile, HPD is proceeding with a previously filed comprehensive case against the owner — litigation that works to correct all violations, charge civil penalties for failure to make timely repairs or false certification of repairs.
Through early May, tenants continued to complain of water raining from light fixtures and ceilings in multiple apartments, and of a chronic vermin infestation.
“I see [the mice] and I hear them in the nighttime messing with stuff and climbing on everything,” said Angelica Rosado. “I’ve thrown away a lot of my daughter’s clothes because they’ve chewed them up already.”
The tenants plan to send a letter to Stabilis next week requesting updated leases, quality repairs, attention to a lack of meter access for ConEdison and stronger communication with residents.
Some tenants say they will continue to withhold rent payment until repairs are completed and they receive updated leases. Residents receiving government assistance say they need current leases to get benefits.
Angelica Rosado said when she moved into the building with her husband and disabled daughter last year the superintendent gave her a fake lease – something she learned only when she tried to apply for public assistance. Stabilis began sending her eviction notices earlier this year.
“If they cared about low-income tenants and cared about affordable housing and not increasing the amount of homelessness in New York City, they could provide her a lease,” said Goldin.
The story was changed on May 21 to note that the Jackson Ave. building is located in Woodstock, not Melrose as was previously stated.