The saga with the so-called Millbank properties continue.
The distressed portfolio of ten Bronx buildings that are now in receivership are the subject of ongoing roof-to-cellar inspections by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. According to some tenants, conditions at the buildings in the northwest Bronx rapidly deteriorated after Millbank Real Estate, which purchased the properties in 2007, defaulted on a $35 million mortgage for 548 units of housing.
On Thursday, November 18, HPD commissioner Rafael Cestero and Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that a round of new inspections at the 10 buildings in the portfolio yielded an additional 1,245 new violations. As of a conference call on Thursday, October 26 where Cestero and Quinn last spoke to the press, the buildings had more than 3,577 open violations.
“On October 25th, I had the opportunity to visit three of the buildings that make up this portfolio, and what I saw was appalling,” Cestero said. “These inspection results, which encompass only 48 percent of the occupied units, are therefore not surprising. In fact, the conditions at these buildings continue to be disgraceful and we are committed to ensuring that the next owners immediately repair the excessive number of hazardous violations, and that this owner has a long-term plan in place to operate these buildings with the best interests of tenants in mind. “
Cestero said that he and Quinn are prepared to work with LNR, the servicer, to find a new owner who will treat the tenants with the respect and care for the buildings as “irreplaceable resources.” The first round of inspections, which Cestero sometimes attended, was completed on Wednesday, November 17. More have now begun. Council Speaker Quinn said that repairs are needed immediately.
“These tenants have lived in these deplorable conditions for years, and that is simply unacceptable,” Quinn said. “Hundreds of tenants from these properties have suffered, and continue to suffer, because of the irresponsible action and speculation of one institution. I want to thank Commissioner Cestero for working with the council and the tenants in putting their pain into a tangible context.”
“I promise the tenants that the council will do everything in its power to ensure that whoever the new owner is will be held accountable and will restore these 10 buildings back to livable conditions.”
HPD has held three meetings with tenants to discuss conditions at the ten buildings, 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. HPD is also working with tenant leaders, some of whom are organized by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.
Sergio Cuevas, a resident of 2785 Sedgwick Avenue for nearly 30 years, said that his apartment is in poor condition with bad steam leaks.
Cuevas, who is now a tenant leader in the building, said he hopes that a new, responsible owner will be found. In the meantime, the hospital employee and father of two said that he hopes to raise awareness about the tenants’ plight, because he wants to remain in the apartment he has called home for nearly three decades.
“I hope to raise awareness, hit a nerve, and hopefully gain some exposure for us,” Cuevas said. “We have 45 units here that are full of families.”