En Español Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Tenants’ super problem: Say city waiver led to neglect

Frustrated tenants of an **East Elmhurst apartment building had planned a rent strike recently because they were fed up
with not having a superintendent to make needed repairs.

The residents of 43-43 91st Place had notified the city in September of their
plight. Since the landlord still had not hired a super six months later, a
housing attorney told them state law barred the landlord from collecting rent.

But there was one problem. Shortly before the strike, tenants learned from
the landlord, Vantage Properties, that the city Department of Housing
Preservation and Development had quietly issued waivers in December allowing a
24-hour hotline to replace supers in 14 Queens buildings
owned by the company.

Now, a local elected official is demanding the city rescind the waivers.

"It is a financial windfall," said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who met with housing officials May 8. The waivers could translate
into hundreds of thousands of extra dollars each year for Vantage, she said.

Tenants and **advocates are furious. They say the waivers help Vantage pad its
coffers at the expense of tenants, many of whom are working-class immigrants.

Vantage, which is backed by private equity, owns some 5,000 rent-stabilized
units across Queens. It has been dogged by complaints that it harasses tenants
so it can vacate units and rent them at market rate. The company has denied the
charges.

Teresa Perez, president of the Queens Vantage Tenants Council, said the waivers allow the company to pocket the
salaries it would have to pay the supers, plus it can rent 14 more apartments at
market rate.

"It’s a perfect way for them to save money," said Perez, claiming the repair
hotline makes residents wait too long.

Vantage spokeswoman Shannon Vander Hook declined comment on the issue when contacted last week.

Housing Preservation and Development spokesman Seth Donlin said there
are no plans to yank the waivers, though they could be if the hotline and
maintenance are not effective.

"We haven’t found at this point that the maintenance of these buildings is
suffering," Donlin said of Vantage’s properties.

But city records show the East Elmhurst building had 61 open housing
violations as of last week. Tenants complained of numerous problems, including
piles of garbage behind the building.

"We need a super," said tenant Junior Luna, 28. He
said he called the hotline at least three times since December to get Vantage to
fix his clogged shower drain, cracked bedroom window and living room window,
which leads to the fire escape but doesn’t lock.

"They said they were going to come to my apartment, and they never did," he
said.

**Make the Road NY organizers are advocating on behalf of the East Elmhurst tenants.