Residents of one Jamaica apartment building say they are living in hell, spending their nights shivering and waiting for their homes to “freeze over” before repairs are made.
Numerous tenants of Loval Hall, located at 88-22 Parsons Boulevard, have complained about dangerous and unlivable conditions in their apartments – including leaky roofs, shoddy plumbing and no heat overnight.
“There’s something wrong here – it is a nightmare,” said Amy Anderson, the building’s tenant representative. “Every night, the heat has been off from around midnight to 6 a.m. If the oil tank is empty or very low they don’t fill it and we don’t get heat. If you call the landlord you get a recording machine and no one calls you back. The thing that frightens me most is that nobody seems to care.”
Anderson says tenants receive little to no aid from the landlord, New York Affordable Housing, or superintendent, John Alba.
Naomi Ferdoushi, who lives with her husband and 6-month-old son, says her family has contracted serious illnesses due to the lack of heat.
“The baby wakes up and cries a lot,” said Ferdoushi. “He got a cough, and last week my baby and I both had a fever. He was so sick I had to take him to the emergency room.”
Ferdoushi also says her radiator leaks into the apartment below and that the super threatened he would close the heat for the entire building if she did not turn hers off.
Shameema Ferdousi, who lives directly below Ferdoushi, said the radiator leaks directly onto her daughter’s bed.
“For the past several weeks, water floods into the room all night and soaks the bed when the radiator upstairs is on,” she said.
Proctor Martin, who shares an apartment with his wife, two kids and elderly mother-in-law, says the conditions throughout his home make him fear for his family’s well being.
“I had a front door with a rope instead of a knob for four months. If there was a fire, I don’t know what I would have done,” said Martin, whose family has lived in the building for almost four decades. “There was a leak in the sink for about a year. After they fixed it, the tiles popped up because of the leak. For months, about a third of the floor was covered with tiles and the rest was exposed plywood. You have to go through highways and hell to get [Alba] to do anything.”
Martin says both his door and floor were recently fixed – only because he took the landlord to court and the judge ordered the work be completed.
Sergio Gonzalez, a tenant for 38 years, has had a myriad of difficulties in his apartment, including all his windows being bolted shut – which the landlord was ordered by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to correct – and a broken toilet, forcing him to relieve himself in a waste paper basket for eight days.
The building’s sewers were also backed up from February to May of last year, causing feces to frequently flood the alleyway.
Although the problem was eventually resolved with the help of HPD, the department says the super did deny them access to the building multiple times.
Many residents have also expressed concern regarding the building’s ability to sustain a proper evacuation in the event of a fire.
Anderson says she has found emergency fire exits locked, and the fire escapes are old and bent with a significant amount of rust – making them potentially incapable of supporting people during an evacuation.
The landlord received a violation and an order to fix the fire escape from the FDNY on February 2.
According to an HPD spokesperson, Loval Hall currently has 86 open violations, 18 of which were issued this past January. From 2002 to 2011, HPD spent roughly $20,600 to perform emergency repairs on hazardous violations, due to the lack of corrective action by the owner.
HPD’s Housing Litigation Division (HLD) has also been involved in 12 cases in housing court filed against the owner between 2005 and 2011. HLD recently resolved a Comprehensive Case against the landlord, ordering the correction of all outstanding violations, due to the owners’ failure to do so in a timely manner. The case included $20,030 in civil penalties.
Despite the countless complaints by residents, New York Affordable was removed from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s worst landlords list in November for trimming the building’s violations down from 144. A spokesperson for de Blasio says the building still requires significant improvements and the history of tenant harassment calls for close attention.
Repeated attempts to contact New York Affordable went unreturned.
Alba says the building has improved dramatically since he became super and that Anderson has been unwilling to work with him to further improve living conditions. Among the recent enhancements the super says he has made is the installation of security cameras, wireless temperature sensors and a new water pump.
“This building, with the violations, was bad,” said Alba. “I told Ms. Anderson to give me six months in the building before you call the Department of Buildings, and she refused to do that. I have not gotten a lot of complaints about the heat either – only from [Anderson]. The boiler is set on winter, so it automatically goes on and off. It is not on manual, but I sleep comfortably.”
Beyond dangers within their apartments, numerous tenants have also expressed fear due to Alba, who they say has physically and verbally assaulted, as well as harassed them.
“He pushed me in front of my wife. I went to ask him about the door knob and he pushed me,” said Martin. “On Christmas, my son and his friend were talking in the hallway and the super said, ‘You better get out of my hallway or watch what I’ll do.’ This guy is acting like a bouncer.”
Martin, an African American, also says the super has directed racial slurs towards him.
Anderson, who has a restraining order against Alba, claims he has threatened, cursed and spit at her.
“He has gone after me, Sergio, the Martins, and has threatened people not to call 3-1-1 or open their mouths,” she said.
Gonzalez also claims the super peeped into his bathroom window – which looks out onto the alleyway – while he was showering and cut his television antenna on the roof.
“It’s a nightmare living here,” said Gonzalez, who has filed six incidents with the NYPD against Alba, including one for petit larceny, one for criminal mischief and four for harassment. “Nobody would want to live so close to this devil. He harasses me 10 to 12 times a day. He verbally harasses me with all the nasty words you can imagine. He has told me he’s going to kill me. One time he made his hand like a gun and shot at me.”
According to Ferdousi, the most frightening feature is the landlord’s attempt to force her from her apartment by claiming she does not pay her rent – which she says she always mails on time.
“I send my rent certified mail with return receipts,” Ferdousi said. “They are doing this to harass me to get me out and raise the rent.”
Currently, three families have harassment cases against Alba and New York Affordable.
Alba, who admits to formerly having a drug problem and serving time in prison for robbery, claims he has never harassed or harmed any tenants.
“Am I aggressive sometimes? Yes,” he said. “When I see people trying to plot against me, yes I’m going to be aggressive. They say I harass them, but they spend all their days calling newspapers and the city departments. They have nothing better to do. There are no problems in here.”
Some residents can attest to Alba’s claim, asserting that the building has improved dramatically during his time in charge.
“I’ve never had a problem with this super,” said Lisa Dickstein. “[Anderson] has lied about the super and she thought I would lie when I have had no problem. He has been doing a great job. [Anderson] comes out of nowhere and complains. I have never had a problem with the heat.”
Anderson, along with other tenants, believes residents who do not speak out against the super are either immigrants who are unaware of the law or scared of him.
“When you have people from other countries who don’t know their rights and they move into a building, if you tell them something and it is not the truth, they have no frame of reference,” said Anderson. “They are lying to the people, and they don’t know any better. Other people are just too afraid to talk.”