Marcia Kramer reporting for CBS 2 News, March 14, 2011
NEW YORK — There’s a new housing scam to report. Bad landlords, reportedly lining their pockets with taxpayer dough for housing the formerly homeless — but in deplorable conditions.
The public advocate told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer it’s got to stop.
“My kids are uncomfortable. Every day they tell me that they want to move. They see people living in good apartments and they can’t live in a good apartment. They can’t play on the floor or do nothing,” tenant Jennifer Gaines said.
When Gaines and her husband, Kevin, left a homeless shelter for a Bronx apartment they thought their ship had come in — but they were wrong.
“This is hell, like living in hell. It’s terrible,” Jennifer Gaines said.
[View the CBS video here.]
Because Kevin has had three liver transplants the city pays their rent – more than $1,000 a month — for an apartment where the stove leaks gas, the toilet shifts from side to side and the kitchen pipes leak when the heat is on.
“We can’t eat here because all the water squirts out on the table and the food,” Kevin Gaines said.
And then there is the mouse problem — droppings under the sink and a mouse carcass that apparently can’t be removed.
“It’s like molded to the wood in the wood,” Kevin Gaines said.
Public advocate Bill de Blasio said the building is just one of at least 10 he knows of where owners on the city’s worst landlords watch list have what he calls a “double-dip” scam going. They collect rent from the city to house people in sub-standard conditions and because they don’t fix their buildings the city has to pay to make emergency repairs.
“This one guy … over $300,000 ripping off the taxpayer,” de Blasio said.
Kevin Gaines and Kramer went in search of the super to see about getting the apartment fixed. No luck as they were told he’s on vacation.
“We ought to throw the book at these landlords. They have to fly right. They have to make these repairs. They have to pay back the city. If they don’t they should get out of these programs,” de Blasio said.
City records indicate that the building has 308 violations, but some of the other buildings in the program have even more.
The Gaines’ landlord told Kramer he’s done 90 percent of the repairs, but the tenants claim that’s not true.