The Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation has launched a campaign to cleanup the excessive violations – including bed-bug infestation and lack of heat – at three buildings on Unionport Road.
A new landlord called Uport, LLC, purchased the buildings – 1980, 1954, and 1940 Unionport Road – within the past three years. Tenant advocates at NIDC say the buildings are suffering from an unbearable amount of Department of Housing Development and Preservation violations.
“We have had problems in these buildings in the past,” said Hazel Miura of the NIDC. “This summer we were contacted regarding a bed-bug epidemic and felt the landlord wasn’t taking care of it. We also found long-standing issues with heat and hot water.”
With bed-bug infestation on the rise all over the east Bronx, special attention is being paid to the buildings by NIDC.
“I had bed bugs before, and I was a little embarrassed to talk about it,” said Nerida Sotomayor, who lives at 1980 Unionport Road. “The furniture that my children purchased for me was completely destroyed. This includes my bedroom set that was lost to bed-bugs. I had to sleep on the floor before and after surgery.”
Sotomayor, who has lived in the building since 1977, recently took the landlord to small claims court to get money to replace her furniture. She said that the landlord is contributing to the problem by leaving old mattresses out on the street after tenants throw them away. Old mattresses can spread bed bugs.
“[The building’s management] leave mattresses out on the street and do not cover them, Sotomayor said. “The reason that I started seeking help from NIDC was that I saw a newborn infant in my building being bit by bed bugs.”
Despite the concerns of the NIDC and tenants, the building’s management put much of the blame on those tenants who are not letting exterminators access their apartments or complete needed treatments.
“We have several exterminators going through the building, but tenants are not complying with their request for disposal of contaminated items, such as mattresses,” said Uport LLC’s John Weinberger. “Many times we follow up to provide extermination treatments, and they do not open the door to the apartments. I have documentation for all of this.”
Weinberger said that meetings with NIDC often become shouting matches, and have not produced any lasting results.
“I sat down and met with the NIDC, and it was a very unproductive meeting,” Weinberger said.
“We have teams of people working these buildings taking care of violations,” he added.