836 Faile St. is located in Hunts Point in the Bronx. This neighborhood has been historically cut off from the rest of the city, suffering from extreme environmental injustices as a result of the highway that runs through it and the high levels of pollution from buses and trucks. There is also amazing activism and organizing taking place out of organizations such as The Point and BAAD.
When I first visited 836 Faile St. (it was in foreclosure with Astoria Federal Savings Bank), I didn’t know what to expect. The neighborhood’s reputation made me nervous to see what type of conditions the tenants were living in and sadly, when I arrived at the building, it was a pretty frightening scene. Tenants complained of not having consistent heat/ hot water, horrible rat infestations, a lack of a live-in super (which is against the law), and an aggressive landlord. Even more, tenants told us the water in their apartments had to be filtered or boiled, otherwise it made them sick. Seriously? In New York City?
Asher Neuman was and remains the landlord of the building, even though it was in foreclosure for years, and it is still uncertain about who will be the owner moving forward (he filed bankruptcy but now it appears he has withdrawn his case). At the time when we started organizing, the Work Advantage program had just ended. People were being evicted left and right. Asher Neuman was aggressive about eviction, and there was a real sense of fear in the building that they could be next. He would threaten tenants that if they called 311, they wouldn’t receive any repairs in the future. Mr. Neuman would choose favorites and repair exclusively their apartments, while ignoring others. (All these tactics continue today).
In April of 2012, Stabilis Fund II, a private equity company, bought the debt on the building from Astoria. When I spoke to Joe Tuso from Stabilis Fund, he admitted to me that someone had simply driven by the building to make sure it existed. No one had stepped foot inside the building to see the atrocious conditions tenants were living in- clearly Stabilis Fund II is about making money, not about stabilizing and preserving affordable housing for tenants.
Currently, 836 Faile st. has 127 violations in 36 units, though probably only a third of the units are occupied. Tenant leaders have been evicted, other tenant leaders have moved out, but many dedicated tenants remain and are committed to organizing and improving their living situation. Tonight, we will be meeting with tenants and filling out papers to file a group HP Action against MHM Equities, Asher Neuman’s entity which owns the deed to the building. Stay tuned for continued organizing efforts against Asher Neuman and Stabilis Fund II!