NY Daily News: “Determined West Farm Tenants Band Together to Fix Up Neglected Bronx Slum Building, Work to Form Co-op”

The New York Daily News  reported on an amazing group of tenants today. The tenants at 943 E 179th street, have shown amazing resilence in face of a seemingly hopeless situation. Their building has been in foreclosure for several years, the owner has disappeared, and the court appointed a receiver has yet to step foot in the building. This is what abandonment looks like in New York today. With nobody around to make repairs or take responsibility many tenants in this situation either leave or are forced to live in horrific conditions. The tenants at 943 decided to take a different rout. They’ve been collecting their own rent for several months which goes into an account under the Tenant’s Association, and they have been using it to make their building livable again.

The residents still have a long way to go. They want to become a Co-op because  after years of poor management, they feel that no one will look after the building better than themselves. After seeing what they’ve done so far, it would be hard to disagree with them. Check out what the Daily News has to say about these tenants:

From New York Daily News: Jacqueline Rodriguez and fellow tenants Jose Luis Alameda (left) and Marcelo Alameda at 943 E. 179th St.

Some tenants in slum buildings with rats and leaks stop paying rent. Others move out, complain or ask for handouts.

But when their Bronx tenement crumbled due to landlord neglect, the tenants at 943 E. 179th St. banded together to collect rent and make repairs.

Now they boast new kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, stoves, walls and floors, and they could become homeowners soon.

With help from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, the tenants hope to buy their beloved West Farms building outright and form a co-op.

Department of Housing Preservation and Development officials harbor concerns about tenants performing renovations without permission rather than letting the city force landlords to make repairs.

But Jacqueline Rodriguez and her neighbors were tired of waiting.

“Most of the people here have been here a long time,” said Rodriguez, tenant association president. “They don’t want another landlord. No one is going to take care of the building better than the people who live here.”

Tucked between E. Tremont Ave. and the Bronx Zoo, 943 E. 179th St. began to deteriorate in 2007, after a Hamptons-based landlord purchased the four-story walkup, said Rodriguez, 32, a recreational therapist who grew up in the building.

Broken pipes and windows went unmended and cockroaches swarmed to the slum. The 9-unit building still has 248 open housing code violations. It entered foreclosure in 2008, with Lehman Brothers holding the mortgage: a nightmare scenario, said Kerri White, UHAB organizer.

“There were no repairs at all,” said Rodriguez, 32, a mother of twin infants. “We suffered without hot water for six months and without heat for months…You pay your rent and you don’t know where the money is going.”

The tenants found out about the foreclosure in 2010, when they were instructed to pay their rent to Con Edison via city marshals. Their landlord owed the utility $38,000, Rodriguez said.

The revelation spurred Rodriguez and her neighbors to form a tenants association and corporation. They opened a bank account to hold their rent in escrow.

In five months under the new system, the tenants have used their rent money to remodel several kitchens, buy new appliances and hire an exterminator.

“When I got here there were roaches and rats all over, in every crevice,” said exterminator Major Meyers of Complete Enterprize. “Now there are minimal issues.”

Several tenants who boast carpentry skills have donated their time and Rodriguez has taught some English to neighbors who speak only Spanish. The building “feels like a family” now, she said.

Meanwhile,
HPD has completed $80,714 in emergency repairs, and helped with boiler oil.

The building
–controlled by
Lehman-affiliated mortgage holder 745 Special Assets LLC
, and Aurora Bank
— could head to foreclosure auction soon.

But the tenants and UHAB are negotiating to acquire the slum before that occurs, White said.

Buying the building and founding a co-op will be difficult, but longtime tenant Juana Almanzar is up for the challenge, she said.

“I like it better with us in charge,” said Almanzar, 52. “I want to own my home.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/determined-west-farms-tenants-band-fix-neglected-bronx-slum-building-work-form-co-op-article-1.1051118#ixzz1qKaU7vM7

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