Lorillard Pl. renters cry for better living conditions

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What do flies, rats and the birthplace of hip-hop have in common? How about 2356 Lorillard Place, a beleaguered apartment building on the edge of Little Italy.

In January, tenants at 2356 Lorillard dealt with an unreliable boiler; Daniel Viruet used hot water and a fan to keep his newborn son warm. Now Viruet wants the building’s management firm to fix a spate of water leaks and evict a family of rats.

There were 565 housing violations at 2356 Lorillard on Monday, July 6. Of those, 94 were classified as immediately hazardous.

The management firm owns and is based at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, where pioneer DJ Kool Herc transformed reggae beats into hip-hop.

“Everyone is tired of this building,” Viruet said.

Palazzolo Realty II Corp. owns the building. In 2007, a Palazzolo Realty Corp. tenant on Arthur Avenue smothered eight-week old Cristian Nunez when she took the baby to bed in an attempt to protect him from rats. In 2002, eight-year old Jashawn Parker died in an electrical fire at a Palazzolo Realty Corp. building in Norwood. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has sued Palazzolo four times in 2009; Palazzolo agents have refused HPD access to perform emergency repairs. At 2356 Lorillard, HPD has applied paint and plaster, repaired windows, installed window guards, repaired stairwells and installed an apartment door. It has also performed de-leading work.

Outstanding violations include water leaks, defective faucets, a missing radiator, rusty paint and cluttered halls. There are leaks on the ceiling in Viruet’s kitchen and bathroom.

There are also leaks on the ceiling in Jocelyn Walker’s kitchen and bathroom. Water damage has caused part of the bathroom ceiling and wall to collapse in at least two other apartments.

The super is unresponsive, Walker said. The management firm even more so. In January, the management firm for 2356 Lorillard was Colonial Management. HPD now lists Semper Fi II Management and Treetop Bronx Management. Semper Fi and Treetop Bronx are both based at 1520 Sedgwick. Walker moved into 2356 Lorillard a year and a half ago. She’s phoned 311 and visited 1520 Sedgwick. Management doesn’t return her calls.

“I’m aggravated,” Walker said. “I’m stressed.”

Walker owes $3,700 to Treetop Bronx because Colonial is still collecting her HRA rent, she said. Treetop Bronx belongs to a management firm based in Newark.

There are flies in the hall at 2356 Lorillard. Viruet recently caught a rat in his apartment and tossed it out a kitchen window. Keith Jackson, another tenant, encountered a rat in the hall. Jackson has a water-damaged bathroom as well.

“It was a big rat,” Jackson said.

Walker and Viruet think the flies and rats breed behind the building, under a trash bag pile.

On Wednesday, July 1, a dead rat baked in the sun; it had been there five days, Walker said. Semper Fi and Treetop Bronx are aware of the HPD violations at 2356 Lorillard Place, a representative in Newark said. The representative wouldn’t supply contact information for Palazzolo and declined comment.

If Palazzolo, Semper Fi and Treetop Bronx fail to take action, HPD will sue the landlord on behalf of every tenant and/or ask the court to appoint an independent administrator, spokesman Seth Donlin said.

Maria Santana has lived at 2356 Lorillard for 28 years. Her fire escape is broken.

“It’s been like this for years,” Santana said.

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