It’s been nearly five years, and the tenants of a Bronx Park East complex are still trying to get their community room back.
In 2006, the apartment buildings at 2200-2800 Bronx Park East and Britton Avenue were purchased by Chim Schweid. According to tenants, Schweid confiscated their community and recreation room on Britton Avenue in early 2007.
Tenants association president and Community Board 11 member Janice Walcott has been leading the tenants’ charge against Schweid since he closed the room.
The windows of the room have been spray painted black so that it could not be looked into, and according to Walcott, the kitchen that was once inside the room has been completely enclosed by Sheetrock.
“I have not been inside the room in years, but from what we were told, we hear it’s being turned into an illegal apartment,” said Walcott, who’s lived in the complex since 1975. “There’s over 741 apartments here. There are a lot of elderly people and children who could really make great use of this room. I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing all of the tenants.”
The tenants association used to hold their monthly meetings inside the room, but have been forced to hold them outdoors in one of the complex’s courtyards.
Walcott said neither her or any of the members of the association are on good terms with the landlord, especially since 49th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson, the NYC Department of Buildings, and representatives from the office of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. have been investigating the tenants’ complaints.
She admits that the complex has dealt with numerous problems during the near 40 years she has lived there. Between drug dealing, murders, and gang violence, Walcott believes it is time for some positive changes for tenants, and the reopening of the community room would be a great start.
Walcott used to have the key to the room, but can no longer access it. Locks have been changed and padlocks have been installed. The only person with access is Schweid.
“We are talking about over 1,000 people who live here,” Walcott said. “Sure we have our courtyards, but that community room was used very often by the people who live here. Tenants used to throw parties in there. Who knows what’s behind those doors right now, but it’s not fair for us.”
Gene Tutora, fellow CB 11 board member and chair of the Land-Use Committee, was able to go inside the room last year with Schweid. Tutora said the room was in complete disarray.
“First of all the paint was peeling everywhere, it was filthy and everything was dark,” Tutora said. “I spoke to the landlord and he said they were just cleaning it. Instead, they closed it for good.”
Tutora said the bathroom tiles and toilet were broken and it looks like there was never even a kitchen in the room. Walcott said she will keep fighting, for the sake of the other tenants.
“Until I close my eyes I will keep trying,” she said. “Future tenants will need this room.”