Back in November, 808 E. 175th Street’s crusading grandma appeared to have won. OCG VII LLC, one of the city’s worst landlords, appeared to have lost. Now Gladys Archer isn’t so sure.
Archer, who heads the rotting building’s tenant association, led 808 to a Bronx Housing Court settlement this year. A judge ordered OCG VII to complete a list of repairs fast, or make way for an independent administrator.
Instead, OCG VII dumped 808. Then Archer woke December 11 to an electrical fire.
No smoke detectors alerted the building’s tenants when a fourth-floor apartment burst into flames, just after 3 a.m. No emergency lights switched on. As of December 22, apartment doors broken during the fire still hung unhinged.
“Ocelot is no more,” Archer said, referring to OCG VII’s Madison Avenue parent company. “But our new landlord is doing no better.”
Last month, OCG VII signed 808 over to DDF Bronx Porfolio LLC, said Alice Phillips-Belmonte, DDF’s in-house attorney. Although the sale is not yet final, DDF has contracted Hunter Property Management to care for 808.
The five-story walkup is part of a blockbuster real estate deal. DFF will acquire the 22 Bronx buildings OCG VII purchased in 2007, and inherit 808’s Bronx Housing Court lawsuit.
“I don’t have to tell you how badly these tenants were treated under the Ocelot regime,” Phillips-Belmonte said. “It made sense for someone to step in.”
As of the court settlement, 808 had accumulated 296 active C-level violations, classified as “life-threatening.” According to Phillips-Belmonte, the building’s new managers are racing to right OCG’s wrongs.
Archer begs to differ.
“It seems like it’s going to be a fight [with Hunter],” she said.
The fire didn’t harm anyone, but destroyed apartment 4F. The American Red Cross found lodging for at least one 808 tenant.
“We woke up and saw flames under the door,” said Latovia Dukes, who lives in apartment 4G. “It was scary.”
Dukes told her children to stay in the bedroom; they suffer from asthma. Her apartment is a catalogue of crises: mildew, a busted radiator and faulty ceilings.
Firefighters broke Antone Jacob’s fifth-floor apartment door. Tired of waiting for Hunter to order a replacement, Jacob made a few calls.
“I found the right doors in five minutes,” she said.
OCG was supposed to fix all of 808’s C-level violations in 30 days. When DDF entered the picture, Phillips-Belmonte asked Dukes, Jacob and the rest for a two-week extension.
“They gave the new landlord a chance,” said Garret Wright of the Urban Justice Center, 808’s tenant lawyer. “[Hunter] had until December 5. I stopped by December 10 and there were still C-level violations.”
Wright expects to see DDF in housing court next month.
“If the judge sees 99 percent of the C-level violations corrected, that’s one thing,” he said. “But if the judge sees 50 percent corrected, that’s not substantial compliance.”
A court-appointed administrator could assume responsibility for the building in accordance with Section 7A of the state’s property law.
“We don’t anticipate that,” Phillips-Belmonte said. “We finished the C-level repairs by December 5, to the extent that we received access. We don’t let ourselves in [to our tenants’ apartments].”
These days, Shawnisha Chennault opens her twisted 5E apartment door with a butter knife. The mother of three is frustrated with Hunter. Her wall paint contains lead.
“I stay home from work to let the [Hunter] workers in,” Chennault said. “They didn’t show.”
Janette Colon, who represents Hunter, did not return phone calls. Colon and Phillips-Belmonte work out of the same Vintage Group, LLC office. Listed numbers for OCG VII have been disconnected.
“In my opinion, they need to just shut this place down,” Chennault said. “I’m trying to get out.”
©2008 Community News Group