Sheridan Avenue residents take landlord to court of lack of gas service

Sheridan Avenue residents, frustrated with the lack of gas in their building since August, have taken their landlord to court.

About 35 tenants of 1520 Sheridan have joined with non profits Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and Urban Justice Center to take building owner Chestnut Holdings to Bronx Housing Court, where they are demanding immediate action to turn the building’s gas back on.

The parties first met in court on Thursday, December 15, when Chestnut’s lawyers initially asked for an adjournment. They convened again for a hearing on Thursday, December 22 at which point the building management company claimed gas would be back on by the end of February.

“The tenants and I echoed to the judge (Jerald Klein), that’s completely unacceptable,” said Urban Justice Center lawyer Sadia Rahman, who is representing the tenants.

Residents held a protest in front of the building on Tuesday, December 20. They are due back in housing court on Tuesday, January 17.

A fire occurred in early August. Aside from cutting off all gas service to the building, it also displaced residents of 14 of the building’s 72 units.

CASA, which is based in the Bronx, started working with the residents of 1520 Sheridan in mid-October. The residents found out abut the organization through their neighbors at 1504 Sheridan, a Chestnut-owned building that shares the same Mount Eden block as 1520 and has also experienced fire-related problems. They began working with CASA in mid October.

“We were talking about what was wrong at 1504 and what’s wrong here,” said 66-year-old resident Nilda Hock. “About how we didn’t have any gas since (Saturday) August 6, the big fire.”

The biggest issue for the tenants who remain in the building is their inability to use gas to cook.

“We’re spending a lot of money going out or bothering people,” said Hock, who has lived in the building for nearly 40 years. “And the electricity is high, because we use hot plates.”

Tenants also claim heat and hot water have been spotty at best, turning on for less than an hour each day.

Betty Velez lives at the six-story building with her two great grandsons aged 7 and 10, and an 8-year-old granddaughter. She said the lack of gas ruined any plans for a holiday celebration at home.

“We had no Thanksgiving, we had no Christmas,” the 64-year-old said. “We’re spending so much money sending out for food. We’re taking the landlord to court so we can get service. We have a lot of elderly people, a lot of sick people, we demand to be treated with respect.”

Tamara Czyzyk, director of housing organizing for CASA, said that the lack of gas problem is common, and the longer landlords drag their feet, the longer tenants are forced to wait.

“We’ve seen a lot of fires in the Bronx, or problems with gas lines and we’ve seen what landlords do,” she said. “It’s a long process.”

Calls to a law firm representing Chestnut Holdings were not returned.

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at wweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394.

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