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2400 Webb Avenue residents blast city officials for not stopping fire escape fiasco

Bronx Times
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Adding insult to injury, tenants forced out of their Bronx building when their fire escapes were removed still have to pay rent.

While landlord Mark Goldfarb is providing $840 a week for “expenses,” he still wants his rent money come the first of the month.

Jonathan Levy with Legal Services NYC-Bronx, called still charging rent “stupid” - but not illegal.

“How the hell you supposed to live off the rest?” said Teresa Matthews, a 16-year resident now staying with her son in Rockland County. She said her blood pressure is “sky high.”

Cynthia Curry, a word processing clerk, also stayed at a motel only to find a bedbug infestation in her room. Her experience has left her “numb”.

It could take at least til the end of the summer - or longer - before tenants from 2400 Webb Avenue can be allowed back in their building.

Harold Cruz, a transit worker, called the timeline “nonsense” and a major headache for his two little girls.

“I have to change their schools now because I’m forced to live on the other side of the Bronx.”

“My daughter just came home from Syracuse University and didn’t have time to pack,” said Angela Westmoreland, saying she feels like a “refugee”.

Many suspect Goldfarb deliberately removed the fire escapes to force longterm tenants out - a move tenant Yvonne Tyson equated to “pre-meditated murder”.

At an informational get-together with various city agencies on Tuesday evening, tenants blasted the Department of Buildings for allowing work that ultimately caused the removal of fire escapes at the 75-unit building before the city moved in three weeks later and ordered tenants evacuated.

Donald Ranshte with the Department of Buildings said much of the delay rests on the agency’s probe and building new steel fire escapes.

“They have to be tailor made,” said Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who hosted the meeting.

Cruz and other tenants were outraged FDNY didn’t keep a sharp eye for the lack of fire escapes.

“Nobody reported anything to us,” said FDNY Borough Command Chief Kevin Butler.

The tenant troubles started back in late April when landlord Goldfarb Properties began exterior renovations. Engineer Roland Draper was issued a DOB permit but also filed paperwork to remove every fire escape in the six-story building.

But even as the paperwork went through the system, the DOB said Draper removed the fire escapes anyway.

Tenants were left to live in the deathtrap for weeks until the Department of Buildings caught wind of the situation through the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. DOB officials soon issued a vacate order, alerting the FDNY to move tenants out June 4.

The fire escape fiasco has affected everyone from a 92-year old tenant to building super Mehmet Mavras, who says he was fired for trying to report the situation to the city.

“They knew what they were doing,” insisted Mavras.

As the city continues it’s probe against Goldfarb, tenants are preparing a class action lawsuit against the company.

For now, tenants have filled out rent reduction forms based on decreased services.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383
Posted 12:00 am, June 15, 2012
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