War on drugs hits close to home

A non-tenant sleeps in the hallway at 479 Courtlandt Ave.

The silence of night was broken on a Wednesday evening when shots were fired on 146th St. and Courtlandt Ave. 

Leslie Velez, 47, and her daughter Ashley, 17, were eating dinner—mashed potatoes and homemade meatloaf—when the shots rang out near the window of their first-floor apartment at 479 Courtlandt Ave. Apartments. Velez became agitated as she looked out her window to witness the commotion. The individuals involved were frequent loiterers on her block, and she quickly recognized them as substance abuse users she had seen before. Her daughter urged her to calm down. After all, she told her, shootings on their street are already a common occurrence. 

“I can’t sleep at night in a place where I pay rent, I just don’t feel safe,” said Velez.

The family says that its main issue with the building is a relatively simple one to fix. They have asked management and the super on multiple occasions for an outer buzz-keyed security entrance to the building to keep residents safe and the opioid users and crime that have plagued the neighborhood out. 

The shooting was the most recent incident in the longstanding war on drugs and crime locally. Because there is no security in Velez’s building, people have been coming inside to shoot up. Drug paraphernalia, blood, overdosed bodies and feces are just a few of the obstacles the residents of the building have to bypass in order to make it into their apartments. 

SEBCO, the Longwood-based development company that owns the building also owns several other connected apartments at that corner. The other SEBCO-owned apartment buildings adjacent to each other on 146th street have entry doors with the keypad locks Leslie and her daughter have pleaded for. 

“It should all be equal if we’re owned by the same company,” said Ashley, frustrated. “We have to go through all this just for a bell.”

Leslie was the first resident to move into the eight-apartment building when it opened nearly 27 years ago. Tenants have come and gone but she has remained over the years. However, with the recent safety issue, she is eager to leave the neighborhood and move to Georgia with her daughter, who will be attending college next year. 

They aren’t the only residents who have asked their landlord for security doors. Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared retaliation from the recent shooting, has been living in the building for 18 years and says she has been in constant contact with the management company to remedy the security problem. Building management, she says, has always had one reason or another for turning down the requests. 

“At one point we were told to call the police more because they had not heard complaints from our specific building,” she said. “Then they claimed our building doesn’t generate enough money.” Velez admits she believes that some tenants may not be keeping up with rent payments. 

SEBCO and its building management division have not responded to numerous requests from the Herald for comment on the situation. 

As the holiday season nears and temperatures drop, the amount of unwanted traffic into the building has increased, leaving residents like Leslie and Ashley low in holiday cheer.

“How I’ma be happy to eat turkey when I got to dodge needles and vomit just to get in my building?” said Leslie.