Manhattan, NY: Tenants from six dilapidated buildings in the Bronx and Queens travelled to Bankruptcy Court today to confront Stabilis Capital Management, the mortgage holder on their homes. The buildings are currently in foreclosure and are being managed by an agent who works for Stabilis. Tenants are suffering from leaks, mold, rodent infestations, falling ceilings, and in some cases, a lack of basic plumbing. Stabilis is scheduled to appear in court today to seek control of the deeds on the properties, which are located in Ridgewood, Queens. Tenants fear that if they are successful in securing the deeds, Stabilis will sell the buildings to the highest bidder, putting residents at risk of continued unlivable conditions, and displacement.
Tenants, advocates, and elected officials are demanding that Stabilis meet with them to present their plan for preserving the properties, which are rent regulated and home to 36 low-to-moderate income families. Tenants are calling on Stabilis to sell the buildings to affordable housing developers who are willing and capable of fully rehabilitating the properties, keep them affordable in perpetuity, and allow tenants significant control in the management of their homes.
Stabilis is one of several companies that has been buying up debt on severely distressed rental properties in New York City’s gentrifying neighborhoods. The acquisitions resemble activity of the market before 2008, when private equity firms purchased large portfolios of rent-regulated apartment buildings, leading to foreclosure and mass deterioration of the housing stock. Today at Bankruptcy Court, the Queens tenants are joined by tenants from 836 Faile Street in the Bronx, where families are facing a similar situation with Stabilis Capital Management.
“As a resident of 1821 Cornelia St., I am concerned about the safety of the adults and children living in these six buildings,” said Tenant Leader Denise Serrano. “We pay our rent, so Stabilis should pay their bills and prevent the electricity and hot water from being shut off. They need to fix things like the locks on the front doors. We want to meet them to discuss who the next owner will be.”
There are currently 549 violations on 36 units at 1821 & 1894 Cornelia, 1673, 1675 & 1726 Woodbine, and 18-14 Woodbine. Tenants have been working alongside their elected officials and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board to encourage the equity company to meet with them and allow them a voice in the future of their homes.
“Tenants should not suffer because of bad bets made by private equity investors seeking to gamble on New York’s housing market,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. “Stabilis Corporation must comply with local, state, and federal Fair Housing laws and should move swiftly to make badly needed repairs in all of its properties, including those in Ridgewood.”
“Too often, tenants are the ones who pay the price for bad lending decisions,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “If Stabilis Capital Management refuses to meet with tenants to develop a plan to protect the future of their homes, then they must sell these buildings to someone who will. I thank the tenants, UHAB, Congresswoman Velázquez and Council Member Reyna for their efforts to protect these homes and call on Stabilis to immediately begin repairs on these neglected buildings.”
“We can’t keep letting these vicious cycles send buildings deeper into distress. Whether they live in a foreclosed building or not, all tenants have a right to safe, decent housing,” said Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio. “When properties get this bad, we need everyone to come to the table–including banks and lenders–to put it back on a sustainable track. Tenants deserve nothing less.”
“It is not acceptable to put families at risk and force them to live through undignified conditions because of the irresponsibility of a landlord. Stabilis has acquired more than just foreclosed buildings, they have acquired people’s homes,” said Council Member Diana Reyna. “These tenants have a right to clean and safe housing and it is incumbent upon Stabilis to appropriately renovate any buildings in their portfolio. If they are incapable or unwilling to do this renovation, they need to transfer control of the building to someone who can.”
“I am here today to support my constituents and neighbors who are suffering with the horrific and unimaginable living conditions for over 5 years,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller. “Clearly, the present owner and the management corporation have been absentee allowing their tenants to live in unsuitable conditions for years. I stand with my neighbors together to demand that our Judicial System, in particular our Bankruptcy Court, force the equity company to rehabilitate the properties immediately or to step aside and allow the buildings to be sold to HPD-approved developers who have the skills to stabilize these properties and provide safe living conditions for our community.”
“Stabilis Capital Management financial transactions seem to be disastrous for the tenants who occupy these buildings,” said Kerri White, Director of Organizing and Policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. “If Stabilis has no plan on how they will rehabilitate these properties to make them safe and decent for the families who live there and compliant with the laws of the City they should exit this deal now.”