State Senator Zellnor Myrie visited what is now the inhabitable home of an elder constituent, highlighting the horrific conditions the tenants are being forced to endure.
The building is the home of Pradine Saint-Fort and her 70 year-old mother in Crown Heights, located at 1114 Park Place in a rent-stabilized apartment.
Yet, they have been forced to deal with black mold and inadequate repairs that pushes them out of their apartment on-and-off since 2016.
The property owner has repeatedly smashed the walls and painted or plastered over the mold, causing extensive damage and forcing the tenant’s family to relocate in hotels at personal expense.
Saint-Fort, who has to stay within the area even when she can’t stay in her apartment, has spent over $1,500 on accommodation in the last week alone. That does not include the cleaning products and other expenses they’ve made for years to fix unattended and progressive damage to the walls in their home.
As the real estate market in New York keeps getting tighter, and rent prices continue to increase, many long term residents in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized homes are facing undesirable situations as property owners want to vacate apartments that they could get more money for from new leases.
In Saint-Fort’s home, the state of the apartment makes it difficult to even access their living quarters.
Most of the Park Place residents’ belongings remain covered in plastic and dust from the work that has taken place while the rest has been put out onto the building’s hallway. Walls have been ripped down but black mold is still visible on several spots and it in the apartment next door, as well.
“Horrifying,” said Myrie. “I’m so worked up about it because no one should live in these conditions, nobody. But specially not someone who has built this community. We have black and brown folks that were here when nobody else wanted to be here, stayed through the good days and the bad days here in Crown Heights. And when Crown Heights started to become lucrative then you start pushing people out.”
“Workers come down to deal with the mold, but they are not told in advance what state the walls are in, so they don’t know what to do,” said Saint-Fort. Photo by Ximena Del Cerro.
Despite these violations, HPD’s Office of Code Enforcement has stated the landlord “does not need to hire a contractor” and can conduct these repairs “with the tenant in the residence,” but according to Saint-Fort, workers sent by the property owner and management have admitted to not have the experience to take care of the job.
“I don’t care what the statute says,” said the senator. “We have a responsibility as government to protect the most vulnerable amongst us and she definitely classifies as one of our most vulnerable citizens. So, get your behind here, force this landlord to make the repairs and if they don’t make the repairs the city should be in the business of making repairs because this is a health hassard. This is a threat to the safety of these individuals.”
Tenants claim they have been ignored and harassed by the company managing the building, SRMC Management, for years. The real state managing company was asked for comment, but did not respond.
“They treat us like we are insane, like this isn’t a big deal,” said Saint-Fort. “They made my mother cry. They told her she was a hoarder and she that she caused the mold, they keep bringing up how much money we make and how much rent we pay as a reason for not rushing the work.”
Saint-Fort is her mother’s primary care giver. The 70 year-old is diabetic and receives her medication through the mail at their home. Her daughter has to keep returning to their apartment to pick it up since their temporary residencies keeps changing as their budget get tighter.
Senator Myrie said he is demanding an immediate response from the city and the HPD’s Office of Code Enforcement for 1114 Park Place. He encourages any of his constituents facing similar issues to contact his office.
“She deserves to stay here are we gonna make sure that she stays here in safe conditions,” said the senator.