Tenants living in a three building complex in Highbridge are suing their landlord after enduring years of substandard housing conditions, they claim.
On Wednesday, July 20, residents from 1307, 1311 and 1315 Merriam Avenue filed a lawsuit against their landlord, Diamond Property Group, for its alleged negligence in providing them with essential services.
The lawsuit presented before Bronx Supreme Court claims Diamond failed to provide cooking gas for more than five months and often failed to provide heat and hot water.
Aside from gas outrages, tenants are subjected to living with unsanitary hallways, staircases and common areas; non-functioning door locks and intercoms and vermin and cockroach infestations, the tenants charge.
The majority of complex’s tenants live on a fixed or limited income, have young children and speak English as a second language.
They claim the lack of repairs and maintenance resulted in the building’s gas pipes bursting on November 14, 2015, cutting off service to 75 families for five months.
Instead of fixing the problem, Diamond provided single burner hot plates forcing tenants to pay higher electric bills generated by these inefficient and hazardous appliances.
Jeanne Schoenfelder, Legal Aid Society staff attorney, said the complex’s gas service was fully restored on April 28.
A New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments community organizer said some cosmetic changes were made in March including repainting walls and repairing front entrance door locks.
“I have been residing at 1315 Merriam Avenue for the last four years and have had numerous communication issues with building management,” said tenant Geni Madden. “No human being should have to live under these conditions.”
They demand Diamond immediately correct the unlawful conditions affecting their apartments and common areas and provide compensation for the harm they suffered, including financial losses, while deprived of essential services.
The tenants are represented by Bronx Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society with organizing support from CASA.
The lawsuit is being filed through the Tenants Rights Coalition, a partnership between Legal Services NYC and the Legal Aid Society with funding provided by the city’s Human Resources Administration.
Schoenfelder explained the litigation came after a letter tenants wrote to Diamond listing their residences’ issues went unanswered.
She added, the case is in its early stages and a trial would only be necessary if Diamond Property Group, Merriam Realty LLC and managing agent Edgar Oyola do not comply.
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development stated, as of Wednesday, July 27 the six-story, 71-unit buildings has approximately 28 open housing violations including three Class A non-hazardous violations, 15 Class B hazardous violations and ten Class C immediately hazardous violations.
Ketty Marcucci, 1307 Merriam Avenue tenant, said her apartment desperately needs repairs.
Her E4 apartment has suffered two years worth of water damage from a broken bathroom sink and a rooftop leak causing her laminate tile floor to become warped.
Marcucci said water has damaged her walls which has allowed mold to grow.
“I love my apartment, but it really needs to be fixed,” she said.
Marcucci has been in contact with management about these issues, but they have yet to be properly addressed.
Diamond Property Group, located at 3677 E. Tremont Avenue, is a family owned and operated business involved with Bronx real estate for 40 years.
David Diamond serves as the president of the third-generation firm.
The company owns and operates approximately 2,500 residential units in New York, approximately a half million square feet of commercial industrial parks in south Florida and several Single Tenant Net Lease shopping centers outside Dallas, TX; Nixa, MO; Stratford, CT; Dayton, Ohio and Monroe, GA.
Diamond did not return requests for comment prior to press time.