Tenants in Pelham Bay are finally getting the improvements that they have been clamoring for.
The residents of 3555 Bruckner Boulevard, a 12-story, 142-unit residential building, have seen multiple improvements thanks in large part to the assistance of local council members and a re-established tenants association.
The previously deteriorating building, which was built in 1959, began experiencing issues in the early 2000s, but the living situation became really dire for the residents in 2011, when the building experienced a gas outage.
As a result, residents were unable to cook and were left without hot water during Thanksgiving and Christmas of that year, a condition that lasted for four months.
The building was also becoming deficient in other areas.
The hallways needed repainting and the public area lighting was inadequate, while many apartment entrance doors along with the building’s laundry room washers and dryers were in desperate need of replacement.
The outdated heating system was no longer reliable.
Lack of accessibility in the building, and elevator malfunctions, also generated problems for the residents.
As a result, many of the them contacted the building’s management company, Abro Management, to demand repairs.
When Abro ignored the tenant’s pleas they re-established the building’s Tenant Association in 2011, which had not been active for nearly two decades.
“Until recently, there was absolutely no cooperation on the part of building management when residents submitted requests for repairs and improvements,” said TA president Sonia Melendez, who has been a resident of the building for the last 28 years. “That was the reason we formed our TA .”
Sonia said Abro continued to ignore the TA so they enlisted the support of Councilman James Vacca,
Vacca, along with councilman Ritchie Torres, forced the owner to replace of the building’s gas pipes and windows, and helped residents file for rent reductions in November 2013.
Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto were also involved in the cause.
“It was a hard road – a long uphill climb, especially after being harassed and intimidated by the building management who didn’t believe we needed these improvements,” said Sonia. “Without the help of Jimmy, Ritchie, Jeff, Michael and the assistance of their offices, we (the residents) would not be in the position we are in now. I thank them for their support.”
“We’ve come a long, long way,” said TA vice president Pat McConnell, a resident of 25 years who was a member of the building’s previous TA. “We should have never gone through what we went through to get these changes, but we have accomplished a lot, thanks to the TA’s formation and the elected officials who have been phenomenal during this time.”
Most recently, Vacca pressured the building’s owner to replace the building manager in July 2015, and worked with the TA to tackle other needed improvements, such as new floor signage, new hallway lights, hallway painting, new doors for each unit and the installation of new washers and dryers.
Other improvements will also be made in the near future, including work on the parking garage roof, which was leaking, along with the building’s facade and new locks for the entrance door.
There are also plans to reposition the building’s security camera.
Vacca recently led a tour to provide a visual update for the revamped building. “This building’s list of needed improvements has really dwindled, and I thank Sonia and Pat for being so determined to get these residents what is rightfully theirs,” Vacca said.