Residents of a troubled 6-story apartment building on Rhinelander Avenue are seeing improvements, but, according to tenants, they cannot come soon enough.
The 106-unit post-war building has fallen into a state of disrepair, with major rodent and roach infestations, elevators that fail to work properly, and other issues.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca intervened in the building two months ago, and helped to organize a tenants association. His office started an aggressive effort to get tenants to report possible violations to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
“We started here at ground zero,” Vacca said during a site visit on Monday, August 15. “There was no tenant association and most tenants did not know the process of complaining. We have seen progress in the number of complaints put in, and are now seeing an uptick in violations issued.”
Before this effort started, HPD had only approximately 20 complaints in the building, but now over 300 have been logged, Vacca said.
“HPD has done multiple inspections, and the tenant association has been set up and multiple meetings have been held,” Vacca said. “Class C violations, the most serious kind, have increased seven fold.”
As Vacca toured the building, he visited apartments where mice had burrowed holes in the walls, rode on elevators which did not stop level with the floor, and pointed out roaches crawling on the hallway walls.
Some improvements have already been made. Much of the graffiti in two stairwells has been painted over, weeds and other refuse have been removed from the courtyard, and the odor that plagued common areas of the building has gotten better, said Vacca’s aide Ritchie Torres.
“This has been the best it has ever been since I have lived here,” said Lloyd Gaspard, a 6-year resident. “The graffiti that was in the stairways has been painted over.”
Serious issues at 1545 Rhinelander Avenue came to light after officers from the 49th Precinct were forced to gun down knife wielder Paul Goldreyer in his apartment on Sunday, March 20. Goldreyer was enrolled in a FEGS Health and Human Services housing program and was pronounced dead at the scene after brandishing a six-inch steak knife.
Vacca is helping tenants file paperwork for a rent reduction at the building, as well as arranging for the tenants to authorize release of rent history and rent rolls that would allow his office to check for rent overcharges, Torres said.
The building has been going down hill since the landlord Hannah Goldberg purchased it in the early 1980s, said tenant association president Ray Jackson, who has lived in the building since 1978.
Social service programs that service residents that are mentally ill or being treated for substance abuse have caused issues, Torres said.
“This building has been gutted of amenities,” Jackson said. “We have got to stop the conversion of the building into a shelter. There are social service programs in here with unsupervised clients.”