Crown Heights tenants rally for inclusive building accessibility

Crown Heights neighbors gathered to rally against Shamco Management’s resistance to build a ramp that would facilitate accessibility to residents with mobility difficulties.
Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

For months, Crown Heights tenants have demanded that their building’s management company build a ramp to provide accessibility for neighbors with mobility difficulties. All they have gotten in return is a two-line letter saying the company will consider it, sent in April.

Residents of 283 Albany Ave. gathered at the front of the building to rally on Dec. 18. They signed a complaint to the New York City Housing Authority against Shamco Management Corp., a private real estate firm owner of over 1,000 apartment homes in New York and New Jersey. This comes after multiple tries to communicate with Shamco over the phone and two letters from elderly neighbors explaining they cannot safely leave the building.

The entrance to the 53 units building is raised from the ground by three steps that lead to a front court.  

Since former Gov. Andrew Cuomo placed an eviction moratorium in 2020 to prevent displacement of people unable to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tension between tenants and landlords has risen in New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a new moratorium on residential and commercial evictions, which is in effect until Jan. 15, 2022. Thousands of tenants have gone over a year without paying rent and landlords threaten to evict them as soon as the moratorium is lifted or have withheld maintenance services.

Daron Chase’s apartment needs repairs, but he has not been able to communicate with Shamco Maintenance, the housing company that owns his building.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

Daron Chase, 57, has lived at 283 Albany Ave. for over 34 years. He walks with the help of a cane and cannot go down the steps at the front of his building without someone else’s assistance — and says he has had to miss doctors’ and dentists’ appointments because of it.

“If I fall trying to go down the steps and my relative can’t pick me up, she would have to call 911,” Chase said. “I want the ramp so that I can simply go walk down Eastern Parkway.”

The letters sent to Shamco explained Chase’s condition and referenced the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that protects people with disabilities by establishing accessibility regulations. The Crown Heights building does not meet those requirements.

About Shamco’s letter from April, saying the company will consider building the ramp, Chase said, “they are just killing time and doing nothing and they have been doing that for years.”

Brooklyn Paper reached out to Shamco for comments, but the company did not respond. On their website, they state, “our highly skilled management team is dedicated to providing and maintaining a quality residential living experience for each of our tenants.”

The company has a three-star rating on Yelp and multiple reviews complaining about unattended mold, failing to provide heat over the winter and poor communication with their tenants.

Crown Heights tenants hang signs that read “This building is not accessible. Build a ramp, Shamco Management” and “Shamco tenants have been needing a ramp for years. We are tired of waiting,” on the door at 283 Albany Ave.Photo by Ximena Del Cerro

“Shamco knows exactly how many people here need this ramp,” said Wanda Noonan, 25, who has lived in the building since September 2019 and has withheld rent payments since May of 2020. “It is cruel that given how much money they make, they refuse to make a small correction that would make a lot of people’s lives much easier. It is very distressing to see our neighbors, who just want to be able to leave their homes just like anyone else, continue to ask for this.” 

Noonan said she has had to call the city’s assistance and authorities to get needed repairs in her apartment. 

“Some people here haven’t seen an exterminator for months,” she said.

Members of the Crown Heights Tenants Union showed up at Saturday’s rally to support the neighbors’ ramp demands. 

“We are going to keep up the fight for tenants’ rights until we win,” said Joel Feingold, a co-founder of the union. He estimates it would cost less than one tenant’s rent for a single month to build the ramp. 

Building resident Ann Primo, 82, told Brooklyn Paper that she needs to hold on to a walker to get around and struggles to go past the building’s door even with the help of her caretaker. 

“With the ramp, I would be so happy,” she said. “I would stop worrying about breaking my neck.”