Bronx tenants in eviction limbo during pandemic ask landlord for lease extensions

As a developer plans to renovate co-ops in seven buildings and put them on the market, more than 200 families will be left in eviction limbo at the expiration of the eviction moratorium.

Facing desperation and despair, families then reached out to West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center (WBHNRC) among several other organizations and elected officials.  While some tenants were able to negotiate buyout offers and temporary lease extensions, many are frustrated and are not sure what to do.

“It is encouraging that the developer has agreed to give time or extensions, offers in some cases, has offered the opportunity to purchase and has agreed to meet with tenants,” said West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center Executive Director Joshua Stephenson. “But at the end of the day, those tenants who cannot afford to purchase will eventually be displaced.”

On May 13, tenants were joined by elected officials as they gathered outside the office of West Bronx Housing and Neighborhood Resource Center, Inc. to ask their new landlord for more time on their leases.

The portfolio consists of the following buildings: 85 McClellan Street, 2265 University Avenue, 2420 Morris Avenue, 2530 Independence Avenue, 2830 Briggs Avenue, 57 Park Terrace West, 3000 Valentine and 3245 Perry Avenue.

Among the people who will be affected are husband and wife Mohamed Shahin and Wedad Elshinnawi, who reside at 3000 Valentine. Their son, Haythem Shahin, spoke on behalf of his elderly parents. Shahin noted they always pay rent on time and to push them out is just wrong.

“We were astonished to receive a note that we had to leave,” he stated. “There isn’t a good time to be asked to leave your home, but during COVID seriously. It’s quite punitive. We’re simply asking for more time until this world is safer.”

Among the leaders at the rally were elected officials Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Councilman Eric Dinowitz and Council Candidates Ischia Bravo and Pierina Sanchez.

Sanchez spoke about how several of her neighbors live in buildings now owned by Myles Horn of Glacier Equities. These tenants are essential workers, parents and many have resided in the community for 20 or more years.

She recalled that in January they came crying to her when they received the letter from Horn.

“Our ask is clear,” Sanchez exclaimed. “We don’t want to be displaced. Every single one of us is a person with dignity and deserves to be treated with respect.”

Dinowitz, a former teacher, knows how moving can affect children. This is a time when people with power should have empathy for those who are struggling, he said.

“We are Bronxites, we need homes, we need time and we need help,” he stressed.

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