By Bill Egbert
Daily News Staff Writer
April 12th 2010
Forcing tenants to live in squalor can sock a landlord with hefty fines, but in this case it could send the owner to jail.
Tenants of 1585 E. 172nd St. in Soundview went to court more than a year ago over collapsing floors and leaking, crumbling ceilings, black mold and rat infestations.
“They kept saying they would send someone to make repairs but they never did,” said tenant association President Martha Castro, whose kitchen floor is slowly collapsing from numerous leaks caused by damaged water pipes.
“It wakes you up in the middle of the night and you think you’re in Niagara Falls,” Castro said.
Tenant Gladys Ortiz, 59, pointed out similar leaks in her apartment that had caused the plaster to crumble away.
Anna Almonte, 28, has to wedge a piece of plywood between her kitchen table and the wall to keep rats from coming through a gaping hole, but she said they still find their way in.
Castro’s building is part of the infamous Ocelot portfolio, 25 structures purchased by Ocelot Capital with inflated mortgages at the height of the real estate boom, and then abandoned to disrepair when the company went under.
Castro’s building and five other Ocelot properties were transferred to Hunter Property Management, owned by Sam Suzuki, who made the Village Voice’s list of the city’s 10 worst landlords. Two of the buildings are on the city’s list of 100 worst-maintained buildings.
The tenants’ lawsuit dragged on until last month, when Hunter’s lawyer quit the case and was never replaced. With Hunter a no-show at a hearing at the end of March, the judge held both Hunter and Suzuki in contempt of court.
Unless the landlord makes the necessary repairs, the judge could go further at a hearing at the end of this month and issue a civil imprisonment order against Suzuki.
Hunter did not return calls for comment on the case.
Castro said she wanted repairs more than revenge.
“If he goes to jail, it won’t help our situation,” she said.
One solution, according to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board working with the tenants, would be for the mortgage holder, Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg, to foreclose on the properties and sell them to a reputable affordable-housing developer.
“They could do that right now,” said Daniel DeSloover of UHAB, “because the mortgage has a good repair clause.”
Last December, the mortgages of 14 other buildings forsaken by Ocelot were bought from Deutsche Bank by Omni New York – a well-regarded affordable-housing developer led by former New York Met Maurice (Mo) Vaughn.firstname.lastname@example.org
Information on Riverstone Residential, the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, and the owners of Toxic Mold Infested Jefferson Lakes Apartments in Baton Rouge, Louisiana continuing to allow tenants to be exposed to extreme amounts of mold toxins
Irrefutable evidence indicates that Riverstone Residential, Guarantee Service Team of Professionals, & plaintiffs’ attorney, J Arthur Smith III, must have agreed to exclude evidence that would have shown the owners of Jefferson Lakes Apartments & Riverstone Residential had knowledge of the severe MOLD INFESTATION at the complex before we moved in
Political Action Committee – National Apartment Association (NAA) files Amicus Brief in mold case (two infant deaths in mold filled apt – Wasatch Prop Mgmt) citing US Chamber/ACOEM ‘litigation defense report’ to disclaim health effects of indoor mold & limit financial risk for industry
“Changes in construction methods have caused US buildings to become perfect petri dishes for mold and bacteria to flourish when water is added. Instead of warning the public and teaching physicians that the buildings were causing illness; in 2003 the US Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, a think-tank, and a workers comp physician trade organization mass marketed an unscientific nonsequitor to the courts to disclaim the adverse health effects to stave off liability for financial stakeholders of moldy buildings. Although publicly exposed many times over the years, the deceit lingers in US courts to this very day.” Sharon Noonan Kramer