In a surprise move, a judge has ordered that repairs be made to a group of buildings that are part of a foreclosed portfolio, even though the mortgage holder is appealing the decision.
Judge Stanley Green of Bronx Supreme Court ordered investors holding the mortgage on the 10 apartment buildings known as the Millbank Portfolio, to advance $2.5 million to the court-appointed receiver for repairs. The move, according to tenant advocates, is possibly a precedent-setting decision, because the $3 billion investment trust that holds the mortgage is currently appealing the court’s prior ruling that it is responsible for repair of the catastrophic conditions in the buildings. Ordinarily, appeals would have to be heard before repairs are made.
The more than 500 apartment units have four thousand Department of Housing Preservation and Development violations, with a substantial number of violations being written after HPD commissioner Rafael Cestero recently commenced cellar to roof inspections on the properties. Cestero personally visited three of the buildings, documenting the worst violations, and met with tenant leaders during the inspections.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn hailed the judge’s decision on Friday, December 10 as a victory for the tenants, many of whom say they have seen their buildings deteriorate as the Millbank Portfolio was assembled in 2007 and then slipped into foreclosure.
“Today’s decision is a small victory for the tenants living in the Millbank building portfolio, but it is one that make me hopeful that irresponsible banks and landlords will be held accountable in the future,” Quinn said.
“Judge Green’s ruling today forces special servicer LNR, which represents all the investors, to pay $2.5 million to repair the buildings, and it is a decision that should be applauded. It recognizes the horrible conditions these tenants have endured for months, and is a step forward for all distressed and overleveraged buildings suffering from predatory equity loans. This decision sets the precedent that all those responsible will have to pay to keep properties maintained and livable.”
Sergio Cuevas, a tenant leader at 2785 Sedgwick Avenue, hailed Judge Green’s decision, and said he was “ecstatic” about it. He believes that Green had heard enough.
The buildings in the Millbank Portfolio are located at 3018 Heath Avenue, 2264 Grand Avenue, 2500 University Avenue, 75 West 190th Street, 2505 Aqueduct Avenue West, 2785 Sedgwick Avenue, 2770 Kingsbridge Terrace, 1576 Taylor Avenue, 686 Rosewood Street, and 3215 Holland Avenue.