Knickerbocker tenants report building flaws

Rashaan Russell blames Knickerbocker and fellow tenants for his building’s laundry room mess. Photo by Daniel Beekman

Tenants at a handful of Bronx apartment buildings managed by Knickerbocker LLC thought they were moving on up. Now some wish they were moving on out.

Knickerbocker, an Atlantic Development Group company, built 881 E. 162nd Street, 941-951 Hoe Avenue and 320 E. 159th Street in 2006. Already, tenants are reporting broken pipes, inadequate heat and dangerous hallways. Community Board 2 has notified Councilwoman Carmen Arroyo.

Atlantic is one of NYC’s best-known affordable housing developers, responsible for more than $1.5 billion of real estate since 2004.

“Knickerbocker Management diligently manages and maintains 881 East 162nd Street as well as 941 Hoe Avenue, 951 Hoe Avenue and 320 East 159th Street,” spokesman Rich Mulieri said. “All are operated within the requirements set by law. If and when problems are brought to our attention, we take prompt action to remedy the situation.”

According to Mulieri, NYC and Knickerbocker records reveal three heating violations and one leaky roof at 881, 941-951 and 320 – 600 units in all.

Last year, 881 tenant Jada Anderson discovered a crack in the ceiling above her bunk bed.

“I’m scared,” said Anderson, 7. “I think the ceiling is going to fall.”

Her mother, Lotoya Cooks, blames the crack on water and a negligent Knickerbocker super. Cooks and Anderson live on the building’s eighth floor.

“I’m so angry,” Cooks declared February 26 at an 881 tenants meeting convened by CB2. “I feel like a dog.”

Other 881 tenants have cracks and leaks. Shattice Taylor, who lives on the sixth floor, keeps a bucket handy. After three straight days of rain, water drips from her living room ceiling.

Broken pipes laid bare 881’s sixth floor incinerator, tenants said. Weeks later, a thin piece of cardboard covers the hole.

“My brother is a bricklayer,” Taylor said. “The walls aren’t sealed. The bricks are cracking. The building is cheap.”

All 25 tenants who filled out complaint sheets on February 26 checked “inadequate heat.”

“I sleep in a sweater,” said Lea Singleton, an 881 tenant since December 2006. “My apartment is never warm. I keep the oven on.”

Singleton considered 881 an upgrade when she left public housing three years ago. The building is handsome and sharply decorated. She completed an impressive screening process.

Now Singleton is frustrated. Knickerbocker holds special population tenants – products of the city’s social welfare system – to a lower standard, she said. There is no on-site super at 881. Singleton and her neighbors share a super with another Knickerbocker building.

Rashaan Russell wants Knickerbocker to clean the building’s laundry room and lock its courtyard door at night. He and other tenants know that 881 plays host to illegal activity. Because the building looks new, one tenant said, police rarely visit on patrol.

Russell faults Knickerbocker’s porters and supers – messy tenants, too. Some 881 tenants jam detergent containers into the building’s laundry room garbage bin, he said.

Knickerbocker tenants on Hoe Avenue and E. 159th Street have run into similar problems, CB2 housing chair Joyce Campbell-Culler said. Knickerbocker will open a 700-unit development at 3rd Avenue and E. 161st Street later this year.

Lupe Murillo doesn’t want to leave 881. She grew up down the street.

“This used to be a parking lot with guns and dogs,” Murillo said. “Now we have a beautiful building. But [Knickerbocker] is unfair, and hard on us working people.”

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