Pelham Bay tenants fuming over rent hike for gas break

Pelham Bay tenants fuming over rent hike for gas break
Sonia Malendez (left) and Pat McConnell (right) are still waiting to hear if their rent will be increased, after their landlord applied for a capitol improvement grant. Tenants are opposing the rent increase, claiming they had no gas during last year's holidays and were never reimbursed.
Photo by Kirsten Sanchez

It’s one year later, and the tenants at 3555 Bruckner Boulevard are still dealing with their gas nightmare.

It was turned off last October 17, and stayed shut through the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, until Dec. 31 after the landord finally made extensive repairs inside the walls.

But instead of a reward for their patience, landlord Richard Hill claimed $200,000 for renovations, which if granted, would increase tenant’s rent by $17 a month for thet seven years.

Now they are fighting his rent hike application.

Tenants at the 142-unit building found notices in their mailboxes June 8 that the landlord had applied for a rent-hiking capital improvement grant for replacing the gas lines.

On Sept. 26, tenants received a letter from the city Office of Rent Administration explaining the landlord had the right to apply for a capitol rent increase to pay for improvements, upgrades or renovations.

The officials said they WOULD investigate further, but that it could take up to a year before any decision were made.

With the help of Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Senator Jeff Klein, and Congressman Joseph Crowley, tenants sent a letter of opposition in June to the Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Rent Administration requesting the rent increase be declined.

“The loss of gas meant the kind of hardship that can’t be measured in mere dollars and cents,” the letter stated. “Families no longer had the option of a homemade meal on Thanksgiving and around the holidays; tenants especially the elderly, no longer has consistency in receiving heat and hot water, and cash-strapped households no longer had savings in their energy bills.

Tenant association president Sonia Melendez said during the time the gas was turned off, tenants suffered electric bill increases, health issues and costs to repair cabinets, floors and walls after the gas pipes were replaced.

The tenants association met Wednesday, Oct. 17 to update residents.

Although the rent hike decision is still pending, the association has worked on building improvements, including completion of gas pipe installation, boiler repairs, regular extermination service, new washers and dryers, and new ConEd meters.

Melendez said she doesn’t think the tenants should have to wait a year for an official response.

“They only gave us 30 days to reply to the notice that they sent us, so they should only have 30 to 60 days to reply. People need to budget their money and prepare for this,” she said. “It is not fair for us to have to repair his building and he gets all the benefits.”

“Last year, these tenants were forced to deal with no gas for nearly two months, and now they are facing a possible rent hike that would pay for the replacement of the same gas pipes,” Vacca said. “We are going to do whatever it takes to make sure these tenants are spared from this unfair hike.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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