Bronx tenants, advocates rally for Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act

Photo courtesy Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition

Lawmakers, housing advocates and tenants of 124 East 176th St. held a rally recently where they called on state lawmakers to pass the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which would give tenants the right to make first offer on a building if a landlord decides to sell. 

Tenants of 124 East 176th St. say the property owner, David Kleiner, has been negligent for years, causing a number of health and safety hazards in the building. If TOPA were to become law, residents could potentially take ownership of the building if Kleiner attempted to sell it, making it into permanent affordable housing.

Current conditions in the building, along with the owner’s track record, have residents worried. Kleiner also owned 1915 Billingsley Terrace, the building that partially collapsed in December — and residents of 124 East 176th St. are afraid theirs could be next. 

Tenants at the 72-unit, rent-stabilized building in the Tremont neighborhood say they’ve been dealing for years with mold, water leaks, infestations of roaches and bedbugs and other hazards in their apartments. Some have had partial ceiling collapses, indicating possible structural damage. 

“David Kleiner was inconsiderate; he not only refused to do anything about the leaks, he also sent us to court during this time falsely claiming that we did not pay the rent,” said longtime tenant Corine Ombongo-Golden at the press conference. 

She said that while her husband was ill with terminal lung cancer, “I had to move our bed into the guest bedroom because it has less leaks and it was less cold than in our bedroom. I had to put towels around the windows and change them to avoid mold. We also couldn’t use electricity in those spaces.”

Department of Buildings information shows the property has been subject to 73 complaints, although only one is currently open. It also shows 95 violations with the city with all but nine now closed. 

But residents made it clear that their problems are continuing to the point where Kleiner should not be allowed to keep the building. 

They say Kleiner, who owns at least 37 other buildings in the Bronx, should be forced to sell due to his “decades of neglect” — and ideally, the residents themselves could buy it. 

The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) would allow tenants to band together for public funding and financing to buy their apartments and permanently convert the building to an affordable housing co-op, according to the nonprofit coalition Housing Justice for All.

Tenants have been organizing for far too long and deserve the opportunity to run their building and give it the dire attention it needs,” said Karen Baez of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, who has worked closely with residents. 

This is not the first time these residents have spoken out about problems in the building. The Bronx Times reported in 2017 and 2018 that the building manager, then named as David David, was ignoring tenants’ complaints and harassing them. 

Kleiner could not be reached for comment.

If the state were to pass the TOPA law, it would join other cities including Minneapolis, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. that already have such protections, according to Housing Justice for All. 

TOPA has already earned the support of state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who represents the neighborhood where 124 East 176th Street is located. 

“Upholding tenants’ rights is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative,” said Rivera at the press conference. “I’m proud to support the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) which would give tenants a chance at control over their homes and buildings.”

Reach Emily Swanson at or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes