My housing s(h)ituation

November 28, 2006 by
Filed under: (s)Hit Parade, Area 51, Greenpoint Magic 

While I (still) intend to write a testimonial about my recent housing woes, the following nastygram pretty much speaks for itself…

November ??, 2006

Negligent Landlord
Brooklyn, NY 11222

Re: Conditions at XYZ Green St. (AKA 123 Manhattan Avenue) Brooklyn, NY 11222

Dear Landlord:

We, the below-signed residents of XYZ Green Street, are writing this letter to voice our concerns regarding the lack of effective management and proper maintenance of this building. Recent events including, but not limited to:

1. lack of heat and hot water for an entire week (11/2/06 – 11/9/06)
2. electrical outages in individual apartments and the public areas of this building as result of questionable/unlicensed electrical work and water damage
3. lack of responsiveness on the part of your managing agent to address the aforementioned issues in a timely manner

have made it all too clear that serious changes need to be made regarding how this building is managed and maintained. It is the purpose of this letter to make you aware of the more egregious concerns we have regarding the habitability of this building and to start an amicable dialogue as to how these issues will be handled moving forward.

1. Lack of heat and hot water: on November 2, 2006 we received a notice from KeySpan stating they had disconnected the boiler that provides heat and hot water to the apartments of this building. This was done because the chimney for the boiler was blocked. This is a very hazardous condition: one that may have caused carbon monoxide to be discharged into the apartments of this building. This situation was made even more hazardous given that neither the apartments nor public areas of this building have carbon monoxide detectors or smoke detectors. Both of the previous are required by law.

KeySpan came to this building Sunday, November 3, 2006 at 9:15 p.m. to inspect the boiler and (hopefully) restore service. We were forced to turn this gentleman away because:

a. The person we were led to believe is the Superintendent (Gerardo) was not on the premises at the time (because he no longer resides here)
b. We had no means of reaching the him or providing access to the basement

As a result, we had to wait an entire week for our heat and hot water to be restored. This is unacceptable; having no heat or hot water for an entire week is not a mere inconvenience, it is a health hazard.

Once again, this building experienced a lack of hot water (or any water, for that matter) November 22, 2006 from roughly 8:00-11:00 a.m. We were given no notice about any work being done to the boiler. Rather, we were told by a gentleman who works for Green Street Plumbing (at 157 Green Street) a week later that you were “sweating the pipes”. What work was being done to the boiler that would necessitate this practice?

2. Lack of access to the basement: the recent course of events (from November 2 through November 9) could have been easily truncated had access to the basement been provided to KeySpan. In addition to having no means of contacting the Superintendent (or another managing agent for this property) outside of business hours and having no one on the premises with the necessary keys to provide access to the basement, it has come to our attention that this building has been cited by the Department of Buildings for having an illegal apartment in the basement.

This was undoubtedly a contributing factor to KeySpan being denied access to the basement. Either you or one of your managing agents did not want to give KeySpan access to the basement for the simple reason that someone was living there. This not only violates the Certificate of Occupancy (on record with the Department of Buildings) for this building, but poses a serious hazard to all who reside in this building. We (the legitimate tenants of this building) cannot get timely access to the basement in the event of an emergency and the person(s) residing in the basement has/have no secondary means of egress in the event of a fire.

3. Unlicensed electrical work and cosmetic improvements being made to this building: On the week of October 25, 2006 an employee under your hire (and/or under the hire/supervision of Gerardo, the ostensible Superintendent of this building) proceeded to do work in the public areas of this building. Among other things he:

a. installed a motion-sensitive light fixture above the mailboxes by tapping into the existing light fixture located on the first floor above the stairwell. Any work that involves electrical wiring must have a permit from the Department of Buildings and must be performed by a licensed electrician. This work was clearly not conducted by a licensed professional (much less with a permit) and as a result, a number of apartments experienced brown-outs and the public areas of this building had no lighting whatsoever for 36 hours. No measures were taken to redress this problem on the part of your managing agent. We, the tenants of this building, put light fixtures in the hallway so some measure of light would be provided to anyone entering and leaving the building.

b. re-faced the stairs between the first and second floors of this building. He tapped into an existing light fixture (this time on the second floor) in order to power the equipment necessary to do this work. This, in turn, caused a brown-out in apartment #1. In addition, the improvements made to these stairs have already started to fall apart. One tenant fell and hurt herself while climbing the stairs because the metal facing on the 6th stair tread had come loose. This has since been repaired, but the gentleman (once again) tapped into the light fixture to do it— well after you have been ordered by the city (twice) to remove this illegal wiring.

c. painted parts of the public areas of this building with oil-based paint and made no effort whatsoever to provide adequate ventilation, be it by opening windows or the front door of the building. When confronted about this, your employee said he had worked this way for “29 years” without trouble and saw no reason why he should change this practice. Oil-based paint, while very durable, requires proper ventilation because the fumes are noxious. As you are probably aware, a number of people in this building have chronic asthma; such fumes serve only to exacerbate their symptoms.

4. Insecure mailboxes: it has come to our attention that the locks securing the top of the mailbox fixtures in our building (to be used only by our postal delivery person when he places mail in our mailboxes) are inoperative. Anyone with access to this building and knowledge of this defect can gain access to all the mailboxes (and the mail contained therein) in this building. The Superintendent’s own daughter was seen accessing the mailbox for apartment #7 (where she and her family had lived previously) by hitting the mailbox fixture repeatedly until it opened.

a. If the Superintendent was concerned about having mail delivered to his new address, he should have tendered a forwarding order to the United States Postal Service.
b. Tampering with mail boxes and mail theft are Federal offenses.

Be advised that this matter has been brought to the attention of the local Postmaster.

5. Access to this building: a number of people have been given keys to this building without any notification in writing from you or your managing agent. This raises some serious safety concerns, as we have no idea who these people are or why they are being given access to this building. Not only was the gentleman (mentioned in item #3 of this letter) given access to this building without notification, but the new porter (?) of this building has been given keys to the front door. Our concerns are as follows:

a. Why was the old porter, Joyce Montero, who resides in this building (apartment #4) relieved of her duties? We were very happy with her services and see no reason why she should be replaced.
b. We are not comfortable with this man having access to this building because:

i. The work he does here is limited in time and scope, yet he loiters around the building constantly.
ii. He has taken to harassing one of the tenants in this building repeatedly. It is our understanding (per what you told an officer of the N.Y.P.D., 94th Precinct, on the afternoon of 11/22/06) that this man is your employee. If this is so, as your agent this man is to clean the building and sort the garbage; he is not to verbally harass, intimidate, or threaten the tenants who live therein. If he cannot (or will not) refrain from bothering the tenants of this building, it is your responsibility to replace him.

6. Door providing access to the roof: this door will not remain closed. It slams continuously during inclement weather and permits rainwater to enter the building. Rainwater has rotted a section of the ceiling on the fourth floor. This damage has since been plastered over (by the same person mention in item #3 of this letter). We have serious concerns about the effectiveness of this repair work and any possible damage to the electrical wiring to the fourth floor light fixture that might have been concealed. Nonetheless, such repairs do not address the origin of the problem, e.g.; the fact that the insecure door to the roof still permits rainwater to enter the building. We want a real and lasting solution to this problem, not quick fixes.

7. Buzzers: this fixture does not operate properly. Not only are they wired in no discernable order (the top buzzer is for apartment #3, for example), but there appears to be no buzzer for apartment #6. This is a constant source of confusion and annoyance.

8. Inadequate lighting at the entrance of this building: it is our understanding (per housing code) that a 100 watt light bulb is to be used in lighting fixtures that illuminate the entrance of an apartment building. The current lighting is clearly not adequate (as of the writing of this letter, said light bulb is inoperative), and as a consequence, a number of derelicts and other non-residents have taken to loitering on the stoop of this building at night. This poses some serious safety concerns. It is not unreasonable to assume that if this fixture was brought up to code, these people would be less likely to loiter in front of this building.

In closing, the above list is a general synopsis of the more troublesome issues we have experienced of late. A number of these defects have already been brought to your attention; you have been cited by the Department of Buildings and Housing Preservation for a number of them recently. Additionally, a number of us would like to know why you have not registered the rent (with the DHCR) for our individual apartments for the last two (or more) years. Some of us have also discovered other irregularities regarding our rental histories which will be brought to your attention via attachments. Following this letter you will find:

• Images of the above-listed defects
• A list of open citations from the Department of Buildings and Housing Preservation and Development for this building
• Cover letters and supplemental material regarding the habitability/condition of individual apartments, rental overcharge concerns and other issues that have arisen with individual tenants

We thank you in advance for your attention to these matters and look forward to getting a written response from you as to how they will be corrected.


XYZ Green Street Tenants’ Organization


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