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Sheridan Ave. tenants blast cosmetic fixup

Carlton Hazel hears the hammers, smells the sawdust, sees the fresh paint. But he isn’t satisfied. Hazel deems the ongoing repairs at 1530 Sheridan Avenue merely “cosmetic.”

Hazel’s landlord, SG2 Properties, is hustling to mend the six-floor, 85-unit building ahead of a Bronx Housing Court date. On January 22, 40 tenants from 1530 filed a lawsuit against SG2.

As of January 22, SG2 had failed to fix 61 emergency “level-c” and 400 “level-b” building violations at 1530, including lack of heat, broken sinks, a defective elevator and peeling paint.

As part of the lawsuit, Hazel and his fellow tenants are seeking compensation in the form of rent credit for six months, December 2007 to June 2008.

Hazel, 62, moved into the building 14 years ago. He works at Montefiore Medical Center and is pursuing a degree in public health from Monroe College. SG2 bought 1530 and 74 other Bronx properties in 2007 for $400 million.

According to HPD spokesman Seth Donlin, the city keeps a file on SG2’s 83 Bronx and Manhattan buildings. The firm is responsible for 12,986 violations.

After SG2 bought the building, an elevator outage forced firefighters to rescue an ill tenant from the sixth floor.

On Thursday, January 26, the building’s elevator was working. So was the lock on 1530’s front door. Hazel wasn’t impressed, however. He’ll see SG2 in court on February 25.

According to tenant advocates and a number of elected officials, SG2’s mismanagement of 1530 fits an alarming pattern.

Tamara Czyzyk of the Bronx-based Community Action for Safe Apartments helped Hazel organize 1530. Private equity firms like SG2, Czyzyk said, buy tenements by the bundle. To turn a profit, they exploit vacancy decontrol, a state law passed in 1997.

Vacancy control allows a landlord to release an empty apartment from rent-regulation when that apartment’s monthly rent exceeds $2,000.

SG2 deliberately neglects the buildings it owns to get rid of tenants, Czyzyk alleged. In some cases, the tenants leave voluntarily. In other cases, they’re evicted.

SG2 has threatened Hazel with eviction at least twice. More than ten of his neighbors have left.

“We’re seeing a lot of strange faces in the lobby, a lot of suitcases in the hall,” Hazel said. “We know that tenants in other SG2 buildings are suffering the same fate.”

SG2 has invested $500,000 on capital improvements and repairs at 1530, $20 million in the Bronx since 2007, spokesman Bud Perrone said. According to Perrone, the firm has corrected more than 7,500 violations borough-wide.

Last year, the Assembly voted to repeal vacancy decontrol.

“I’m with the tenants,” said Assemblywoman Aurelia Greene. “Foreign banks are paying these developers to gentrify our communities.”

The state senate has yet to vote.

“We have landlords looking to make a quick buck,” Senator Jose M. Serrano said. “What the tenants at 1530 Sheridan Avenue are doing is great. They are sending SG2 a message. I feel confident that change is coming.”

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