Frustrated tenants from 1072 Woodycrest Avenue rallied in protest of their building’s landlord and owner, Jacob Eisenstein on Wednesday May 23, demanding quality repairs, improved services, and an end to what they believe is harassment through poorly kept conditions.
Tenants in the 52-unit building lived more than four months without gas from January until the end of April according to Community Action for Safe Apartments, the organization that supported the protest.
Eisenstein began a gas-to-electric stove conversion without notifying the tenants beforehand and did not obtain the proper approvals from the NYS Division of Homes and Community Renewal, CASA says.
“Our (building’s) management company upgraded the intercom system, are repairing our elevator, which is still not working, and converted our gas stoves to electric stoves,” said tenant Marilyn Mullins. “Now the landlord wants us to pay more for the services that we did not get for months or years,” she added.
During a February meeting with Eisenstein, the landlord told the tenants that a Major Capital Improvement rent increase application would be filed following the completion of the delayed repairs, Mullins said.
“A tenant’s right to a safe and habitable apartment does not depend on how much rent they pay” said Johanna Ocana, the attorney representing the Woodycrest Avenue property in a recent housing lawsuit against its ownership over failure to make the adequate repairs.
As the tenants prepared for their protest, agents from the management office took pictures of the organized group and watched the action from across the street, the tenants claim.
Tenants also allege they have been intimidated. They charge that they are discouraged from participating in tenant meetings, that management has refused to provide quality repairs and that the long-term tenants have been denied access to basic services.
“What our landlord is doing is to harass us to displace us. We haven’t received the repairs we have repeatedly asked for and we haven’t had services for years,” said tenant Clara Cruz.
“The elevator is broken and my elderly neighbors and neighbors with disabilities can’t get down the stairs. That’s why we are here demanding that our landlord become accountable for its actions,” she added.
Other conditions reported in the six-story, pre-war building include the rampant vermin infestation, mold, water damage and non-functioning electrical outlets.
“Many times, when our landlord sends his staff to our apartments to repair the issues that we are complaining about, his staff starts the work, they don’t finish the work. When they do (finish the repair) it’s patch work,” said tenant Barbara George.
The ending of patch-work repairs was also a major proponent of Ocana’s case against the building’s ownership.
“We hope tenants across the Bronx and New York City use 1072 Woodycrest Avenue as an example and step forward to hold their landlords accountable. Our’s is not a unique story,” Ocana added.
These tenants are determined to continue their struggle until they receive good quality repairs and a commitment from their landlord to hold the rents at its current level.
The Bronx Times reached out to Jacob Eisenstein but did not receive a response in time for publication.