These tenants living in rats nest

John Abreu, Aaron Gordon and Antoinette Purcell are standing up for their neighbors at 3094 Villa Ave. after years of living in squalor.
Photo by David Cruz

Imagine months without hot water in winter, puppy-size rodents and collapsed ceilings in your apartment building.

For tenants at 3094 Villa Ave., it’s a reality that’s intensified after a year-long legal fight with the bank refusing to make repairs.

The tenants at the Bedford Park building have withheld rent as their lawyers press Bronx Supreme Court Judge Alexander Hunter to order the building fixed and it’s ad hoc landlord removed.

It’s a request John Abreu, president of the tenant’s association, wants to see after a dismal winter last year.

“We froze last winter!” said Abreu, living in the four-story brick building, whose basement is a rat’s nest.

He’s rallied tenants to join the suit that wants Christopher Marengo out as the rent collector assigned by Bronx Summit Funding LLC. The group bought the deed from New York Capital Bank after original management firm, Blue Whale Villa, folded.

The tenants are represented by attorney Harvey Epstein.

“There’s no hot water, no cooking gas,” said Epstein. “We’re not suing for money, we just want the work done.”

Abreu stopped paying rent in November last year, along with tenant Antoinette Purcell.

“We don’t mind paying rent, but if we can’t get repairs done there’s no need to pay rent,” said Purcell, whose husband Aaron, the former building super, has seen the walk-up descend in squalor.

Carla Roth, a Section 8 tenant, has also joined him, though she believes reps for the federal voucher program would stop covering her rent.

Her problems were compounded after contractors for management crews came to her apartment for patchwork plumbing repairs only to stop midway.

“I said, ‘There’s no way Section 8 is going to pass this,’” recalled Roth, who lives with her two children.

One floor up, Sonia Baez is creeped out to hear rats scampering on her stovetop at night.

“They’re all over the place anytime,” said Baez, a mother of five children who often sleep with her to avoid the rats. “We live like animals.”

The city Housing Preservation & Development agency has nearly 400 violations logged against building owners, 59 of those deemed hazardous.

HPD crews have been dispatched on several occasions to make repairs, but were stopped by Marengo after he claimed a private contractor was already assigned. No one came. As a judge mulls a decision, Marengo’s taken potential buyers on a tour of the building following what tenants call an on-the-surface clean-up job.

“We really need to find out who’s going to buy the building,” said Purcell. “We cannot go another winter without heat or hot water.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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