The Legal Aid Society’s Bronx Tenant Rights Coalition filed an HP lawsuit on behalf of 25 tenants of 1920 Walton Avenue in the Bronx against landlords Manny Stein and Jacob Finkelstein for delaying essential repairs to the building and neglecting tenant needs. This 85-unit building was severely damaged by a five alarm fire in September 2017 displacing residents, many of whom now reside at local homeless shelters due to vacate orders from the City. The building has 140 open violations, and almost half of which are class C (62 immediately hazardous violations) with the City.
The action also names the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) as these agencies have failed to hold the aforementioned landlords accountable for fully repairing the building in a timely manner.
Systemic conditions have plagued 1920 Walton Avenue for years, such as dirty common areas; periodic lack of elevator services, which has impacted elderly and disabled tenants rendering them frequently homebound; and vermin infestations – all of which were repeatedly brought to the attention of management and routinely ignored.
Since the fire, tenants have been without cooking gas causing financial hardships for many who were forced to eat out. Others residents with asthma and breathing issues have found it difficult to enter the building at times. Tenants also report continued mice and roach infestations, broken windows, gaping holes in walls and ceilings from unfinished gas pipe work, and a refusal from management to address these problems.
The HP case seeks to require the landlord to make the necessary repairs so that residents can return to their homes and have habitable living conditions. Petitioners are also asking the court to award monetary damages for the harassment they have experienced from the landlord depriving them of essential services.
The Legal Aid Society’s Tenant Rights Coalition is supported by the City’s Human Resource Administration (HRA).
“The landlord of 1920 Walton Avenue has been ignoring our clients’ requests for reasonable repairs for years, forcing them to live in steadily deteriorating conditions. Since the September 2017 fire, the landlord has refused to make timely repairs, cutting off cooking gas and elevator service, while leaving dust, holes, and construction materials throughout the building for months,” said Zoe Kheyman, Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society. “Enough is enough; no New Yorker should suffer this treatment from their landlord. We look forward to resolving our clients’ case in court very soon.”
“The ongoing terrible conditions in 1920 Walton have caused some families to abandon their otherwise affordable rent stabilized homes, while others who have been forced out because of unresolved vacate orders are staying in shelters or with family and friends but still hope to return after the repairs are made. This is exactly the kind of behavior that the recent amendments to the definition of harassment in the Housing Maintenance Code are intended to address,” said Jessica Bellinder, Supervising Attorney of the Bronx Tenants Rights Coalition of The Legal Aid Society. “We hope that this case, and others like it, will ensure that tenants can reside in safe, affordable homes and that their communities in the Bronx continue to flourish.”
"It is outrageous that almost nine months after the residents of 1920 Walton Avenue survived a fire, the building continues to be uninhabitable. These landlords have neglected their responsibility to repair their building putting the health and safety of tenants at risk, and forcing many of them to move out and enter the shelter system. We cannot sit idly by while landlords neglect their duty, harass tenants, make them live in squalor, and circumvent the law in an effort to raise rents and deregulate apartments. I stand with my constituents and The Legal Aid Society in holding these landlords accountable and fighting for the repairs they need and deserve," said New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera.