Bronx tenants fight back

The ceiling of Diowisia Rodriguez’s often leaks water. There were occasions where the ceiling would fall on the floor. Photo by Victor Chu

Tenants of the Bronx have finally had enough and are taking a stand and filing a lawsuit against their landlord, fighting for the right to live normal lives in a healthy environment.

The buildings at 806 and 808 E. 175th Street have been subject to an extremely negligent landlord for over a year, totaling over 900 violations, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Alternative Enforcement Program.

Of those violations; 265 are class-C violations, subjecting tenants to health-related hazards.

Representing the tenants are attorneys from the Urban Justice Center, including Garrett Wright who said, “The owner has repeatedly ignored requests by the tenants and by the city to remedy this building and others. We are calling on the courts to force the landlord into action.”

The wide variety of violations include holes in ceilings and walls, no heat, no water, irregular water temperatures, severe rodent and insect infestation, damaged pipes, broken doors and windows, obstructed fire exits, and inadequate outdoor and indoor lighting.

Laura Rodriguez, a tenant since 1975, has grandchildren that cannot spend the night. Her grandson Justin Medina, 10, said, “We want to sleep over, but we can’t. It’s really scary here. Our grandmother pays good money and it’s sad.”

Rodriguez explained that the ceiling has fallen three times within the last year. “We are afraid to pull the string on the fixture because the ceiling will come down,” states Kristen Rosado, Rodriguez’s 10-year-old granddaughter.

Tenants without proper bathing areas, are forced to boil water and shower using a bucket. Apartments with continuously leaking water causing serious damage to walls, ceilings, and surrounding units.

“The water causes frequent overflow and damage, I am constantly late for work because of it,” states Kyemia Lennon. “I have had over six asthma attacks from the mildew and mold.”

Several tenants also complained of asthma attacks, but the larger concern is for their children becoming exposed.

Three of La-Tovia Dukes’ sons have asthma, the youngest being 3. “My son has been hospitalized twice. The conditions are disgraceful, my dog shouldn’t even live like this.”

“We tell the landlord, but he does nothing – he thinks he can get away with this. Well, today we’re showing him that he can’t,” expressed Dionisia Rodriguez.

“The last time my mom cooked, the paint was peeling off the wall, and when I was eating I found paint chips in my food.” Said Johancel Concepcion, Rodriguez’s son who has developed a skin fungus, along with the rest of his family.

In addition, obstructed fire exits may prevent tenants from a surviving an emergency.

Several fires have struck the building, including Luz Colon’s apartment. The fire exploded through her window causing severe damage, and was repaired by a flimsy piece of wood.

Safety is also a concern, with many of the tenant’s doors broken, and the lobby entry doors left unlocked.

“People don’t even have to break in; it’s open, easy access for vandalism and graffiti,” explained Gladys Arches, president of the tenants association for the building.

The hope of these tenants is to have the city intervene and fix the estimated $ 805,000 worth of damage for the pair of buildings. The first court appearance is set for Wednesday, September 24, at 9:30 a.m.

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