The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Tag Archives: Joe Tuso

Speculator today, slumlord… today?

broken stairs 10.7.13 now fixed

After two years of tenant organizing, not that much shocks me anymore.  I’ve seen holes in ceilings, mold covering bedroom walls, and families living without basic amenities like fridges or stoves.  But walking into 755 Jackson Avenue in the Bronx was a shock.

A quick rundown: The building has 11 units and 215 code violations. It’s in HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program, and on the Bill de Blasio’s Worst Landlord List.  The building has asbestos, lead paint, mold, leaks, and two tenants were injured on a collapsed staircase (pictured above).

And if that’s not enough, it’s owned by the one and only Stabilis Capital Management.  (In case you forgot, Stabilis is the lender on 836 Faile Street and six buildings in Ridgewood, all of which are in foreclosure and in deplorable condition.)

Wait! Stop the presses!  Stabilis owns buildings?  That was our question, too, given that we’ve only ever seen them acting as a mortgage holder interested in flipping debt.

That probably was their plan here as well, but things went wrong: Stabilis bought the debt at 755 Jackson Ave while the building was in foreclosure.  When the building went to auction, we assume no one bid and Stabilis took the title by default. It seems like it was all a big mistake. With a lot of consequences.

While Stabilis became owner in June, they have done nothing to step forward and claim responsibility for the building.  This has left tenants in a position where they don’t know who to call in an emergency or who to pay rent to. It leaves the City responsible for repairs. The building is effectively abandoned.

We’re now organizing at Jackson Avenue and tenants are planning to push Stabilis out of their building. And now that we know how Stabilis treats the buildings they own, we’re doubly fired up to fight against them at Faile Street and in Ridgewood, Queens.

Tenants, elected officials, and advocates are demanding that Stabilis find a responsible way to dispose of this property, and the other distressed multifamily buildings in their portfolio.  Check out Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s letter to Stabilis Capital here, and stay tuned to our campaign!!

836 Faile St: Still Dealing with Same Old Thing, but Tenants Continue to Organize!

Mural in Hunts Point, Bronx

Mural in Hunts Point, Bronx

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 March 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!

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