BRONX, NEW YORK – More than 60 families who live at 1259, 1265 and 1269 College Avenue in the Bronx said goodbye to an owner who let their homes slide into a state of disrepair and dilapidation, and celebrated the sale of their buildings to a new management company committed to making repairs and keeping rents affordable.
The three buildings had been owned by Eli Abbott of College Management, which ranked #1 on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlords Watch List, with more than 700 infractions for lack of heat, toxic mold and infestations. But thanks to a successful organizing effort backed by New Settlement Apartments’ Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), tenants brought“7A” legal actions against the owner and with intervention from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), succeeded getting the buildings sold to a responsible property owner. The new owner, a joint venture between Banana Kelly & Wavecrest Management finalized the transfer of the buildings on Wednesday with a commitment to rehabilitate them and keep them affordable for the current tenants.
“It’s big a long, hard fight with this landlord. He just wanted to come collect rent, without provided basic services. We’ve been suffering with lack of heat, hot water, chronic leaks—you name it! I am so excited that he is no longer our landlord! We are so hopeful that the new landlords will be different. I am so proud of our work as a Tenants Association, and am grateful to CASA-New Settlement, Legal Services-Bronx and NYLPI for all of their support,” said Dominga Sanchez, a tenant leader of College Avenue Tenants United.
“This is one Watch List landlord who can’t mistreat his tenants anymore,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “These families showed that tenant organizing and public pressure can hold bad landlords accountable when they flout the law. We’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, and we won’t stop fighting until every Watch List building is turned around.”
“This is a big victory for the tenants who have held strong and persevered when the odds were against them so that they could have what they rightly deserve; safe, clean, affordable homes,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “We are committed to providing the critical funding necessary to rehabilitate these properties, rid them of violations, and bring them back into good repair. We are proud to have been able to work with Banana Kelly & Wavecrest, CASA, New York Community Bank and the tenants to put the buildings in the hands of responsible ownership.”
After years of spending their own hard-earned money to make repairs, tenants began organizing against their landlord in August 2011. After College Management labeled their calls for repairs “ridiculous,” tenants ran a successful 311 calling campaign and documented hundreds of complaints and worked in partnership with New York Community Bank. All three buildings were placed in HPD’s Proactive Preservation Initiative with the agency entering into litigation over the violations and obtaining orders against the landlords requiring them to repair the conditions in the buildings. Additionally, in the past year the landlords paid more than $14,000 in civil penalties to HPD in its cases against them. HPD also actively participated in and supported the tenants’ 7A proceedings seeking appointment of an administrator.
Soon after the organizing work began, the landlord put the buildings on the market. Concerned that one bad landlord would be replaced by another, more than half of the tenants in all three buildings brought three separate “7A” actions against College Management with the help of Bronx Legal Services and New York Lawyers for Public Interest. The legal action provided leverage to help negotiate the sale of the buildings.
Over the course of several months, HPD worked with Banana Kelly & Wavecrest as they negotiated with the owner and with the New York Community Bank which held the debt on the portfolio of properties. HPD committed to providing low-interest rehabilitation loans through its Preservation Loan Program to cover the costs of renovating all three of the properties. With HPD’s commitment secured, Banana Kelly & Wavecrest were able to reach an agreement with the owner and the bank. The buildings were officially sold to the new owners on Wednesday. The new owners have a history of rehabilitating financially and physically distressed buildings across the Bronx and New York City.
“Every tenant in this borough should have a safe and habitable place to live, where they are able to rely on essential services in their apartments,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “I am a proud supporter of the work of CASA New Settlement in organizing tenants effectively throughout New York. I commend the Public Advocate and CASA New Settlement for taking a leadership role in this case and congratulate them on their success.”
298 buildings have been successfully removed from NYC’s Worst Landlords Watch List after making necessary repairs. View the list at www.LandlordWatchList.com.
About CASA New Settlement Apartments:
Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) is New Settlement Apartments tenant organizing initiative. CASA is made up of community residents in the Southwest Bronx who work together to improve the living conditions in their neighborhood and maintain affordable housing through collective action. CASA helps organize tenants associations, provides tenants’ rights workshops, coordinates free housing legal clinics, holds monthly community meetings and works with its members to develop local campaigns around the need for affordable and safe housing.