Barnes Avenue building needs emergency repairs

Steel supports put in place in the basement of 2194 Barnes Avenue (above) temporarily support part of the building after a near retaining wall collapse several weeks ago. - Photo by Patrick Rocchio

What used to be one of the strongest buildings in the Pelham Parkway community has gone downhill, activists say, and is in desperate need of emergency repairs that as of yet the management has not provided.

A June 23 inspection by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the New York Fire Department found a retaining wall in the basement of 2194 Barnes Avenue nearing collapse, and brought media attention to the building, where many residents say services have not been kept up to par lately.

A representative of the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation, a non-profit dedicated to the long-term viability of the Pelham Parkway area, met with approximately half of the buildings occupants on Tuesday, July 8 in the main hallway to discuss ways to improve the management of the building.

The meeting focused on several possible ways to get the owner, Emmanuel Binder, and Arista Management, to make needed repairs including fixing the retaining wall which temporarily left eight apartments unoccupied, improving the piping in the building for cleaner drinking water, and making overall infrastructure improvements. 

“We had a talk with management, and they are interested in working with tenants to get this done,” said Hazel Miura, of NIDC. “The tenants submitted a list of repairs, and we have given them at least two weeks to begin working on the necessary improvements.”

Among the possible tactics used by the renters could be a rent-strike, but Miura said that though they are ready to take legal action, if they are able to resolve the situation without going to housing court, all the better.

“A rent-strike is not completely off the table,” Miura noted. “My goal is to get the repairs done. If the landlord is willing to inspect the apartments and make the repairs, we will have achieved our goal.”

Miura, who will discuss further possibilities at another building meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 29, noted at the previous gathering that before a rent strike, the landlord must be notified in writing.

One of the tenants, who lives just above the basement wall that was in danger and is now supported by external supports, has not yet been able to return to his apartment.

“The major problem for me is that I have been displaced for two weeks, and the landlord doesn’t want to put me up,” said tenant Tony Centeno. “The landlord set my wife and I up in a hot-sheet motel, and there was no way I could stay there. It was an insult.”

While the NIDC and the building’s management figure out a way to resolve the issue, landlord Emmanuel Binder maintains he is a good landlord.

“I am ready to get out of this building,” said Binder, citing the recent structural damage and the amount of time the building has been in his possession. “I have had it for 50 years.”

In that time, Binder believes he gave residents the best money could buy, adding, “The tenants never had it this good.” 

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