Tenants at one Mount Eden building are taking their landlord to court for allegedly threatening to evict them.
The Bronx Legal Services’ Tenant Coalition filed a Federal Discrimination Complaint in U.S. Federal Court on behalf of the tenants of 1555 Grand Concourse on Wednesday, October 24.
The tenants receive organizing support from Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and legal representation by Bronx Legal Services’ Tenant Rights Coalition funded by the NYC Human Resources Administration’s Anti-Harassment and Tenant Protection program.
They demand their landlord, Pistilli Realty cease its evictions and be held accountable for damages caused to their families.
The tenants claim they are being discriminated by Pistilli Realty for participating in the HIV/AIDS Service Administration-funded, scatter-site housing programs.
Pistilli Realty announced mass evictions of all ‘program apartments’ earlier this year; less than five months after it purchased the 149-unit, 139,000 square foot building from the late Harry Silverstein’s estate for approximately $29.8 million in September 2017.
The Queens-based real estate group has made many alterations, to the building, which the tenants have labeled ‘cosmetic’, but their complaints of poor living conditions and unfair treatment by management persists, they claim.
“When the landlord took over the building I noticed that they gave the building a facelift and then immediately started evicting people and renovating apartments and that’s when I realized they had a bigger, money hungry agenda,” said Robert White, tenant leader.
The various programs currently leasing apartments were given a May 31, 2018 deadline to remove all program tenants.
For decades, the 91-year-old, 6-story elevated building has housed dozens of families via scatter-site housing which provides stable housing for a vulnerable HIV affected population, CASA said.
According to NYC Housing Preservation and Development, as of Tuesday, October 30 the property has 146 open violations consisting of 16 Class A non-hazardous, 82 Class B hazardous and 48 Class C immediately hazardous violations.
Tenants live with chronic leaks, damaged floors and dangerously antiquated electrical systems, the complaint alleges.
“You’d think that my biggest problem would be my illness, but really what it is it’s the landlord trying to take me out of my home and putting me somewhere where I don’t know my neighbors,” expressed Susan Guthridge.
Like Guthridge, many tenants suffer from chronic health issues and limited mobility, are elderly or have young working families.
Scatter-site housing is often criticized for depriving tenants their fundamental rights and for depleting the city’s affordable housing stock by allowing rent regulated apartments’ landlords to charge astronomically high rents and remove housing from rent regulation.
No eviction proceedings have started, however tenants state that management is allegedly using several tactics to force them out.
Pistilli Realty owns approximately 28 buildings and 2,000 apartments in the Bronx.
Pistilli did not return requests for comment.