Residents at 888 Grand Concourse - after engaging in a long battle with their landlord - got a huge win in court earlier this month.
On Tuesday, September 6, tenants gathered in the building’s lobby to celebrate the building’s entrance into receivership.
Bronx Supreme Court Judge Mary-Ann Brigantti provided the receivership to Bronx Attorney Christopher Morengo.
Residents had been fighting for months to get repairs to the building for issues such as lack of heat and hot water, poor elevator service, vermin and water leaks.
Morengo is now charged with making repairs to the building.
“I can’t tell you I’m not one to scream and shout, but I was,” said tenant leader Carmen Vega-Rivera of her excitement after learning about the receivership. “It was a victory moment.”
Public Advocate Leitia James called the decision a “big win for every New Yorker who has been the victim of a predatory and unscrupulous landlord.”
She added the decision is a “testament to the power of organizing our commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers have access to the safe and decent housing the deserve.”
Vega and many of the tenants at 888 Grand Concourse had been fighting the landlord - both in and out of court - for more than two decades to make repairs.
“The courts have finally done something right in all these years,” said Vega-Rivera.
The 81-unit building is owned by Jonathan and Louis Bombart the heads of Tiny Fiesta Realty Associates LLC.
Vega-Rivera, created the tenants organization in 1993 and said from there began trying to work with the landlord to better conditions in the building.
However, she said little to no progress was ever made.
According to the tenant leader, the owners would even attend tenant meetings and still the work didn’t get done.
At one point, said Vega-Rivera, the residents were successful in getting the landlords to hire a construction crew to address the building’s problems but the work they did was unsatisfactory.
In 2011 the residents, needing help, garnered the aid of Community Action for Safe Apartments and later joined with the Bronx Legal Services.
They began in 2013 taking the fight to court and got mortgage holder Madison Realty Capital to begin foreclosure proceedings.
However, the foreclosure proceedings stalled.
At the beginning of February, residents decided to start withholding rent.
Following that decision, residents began to work with Bronx Legal Services to ask for the removal of the landlord through a temporary receiver.
Brigantti granted the decision in mid-August.
Bronx Legal Services attorney Bob Hammond said it was “rare” for a judge to grant a receivership at the request of tenants.
However he added the residents “showed up in numbers at every court date to remind the judge that real people are living with these conditions, and I think we got a very people-centric decision as a result.”
Vega-Rivera said she is looking forward to meeting with Morengo and hearing the plans he has for the building going forward.
The Bombarts did not respond to a request for comment.