A Council candidate owns properties listed among the city’s 250 most worst-maintained buildings — in the district he wants to represent.
Delvis Valdes, who has thrown his hat into the running for the 38th-District Council seat of Sunset Park and Red Hook, owns buildings through the Delerimar Realty Corp. with a slew of hazardous violations that have landed his properties in the city’s special enforcement program for three years in a row, according to city records.
The perilous conditions include an illicit gas hook-up, unsafe electrical wiring, and performing repairs without permits, Department of Building records show. It is upsetting behavior that puts his would-be constituents at risk, said a tenant organizer counseling residents living in the properties.
“It’s very disheartening to me that someone treats their tenants this way,” said Marcela Mitaynes, with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a Sunset Park-based tenant-advocacy group. “Nobody should have to live under these conditions and have to go through these obstacles. It’s not fair.”
Department of Building records list Valdes as the president of the Sunset Park-based Delerimar Realty Corp. and has him and the reality group as the owners of four apartment buildings that have been listed with the city’s Housing Preservation and Development’s alternative enforcement program — which annually designates 250 properties with outstanding violations that endanger tenants with the goal of pressuring landlords to make repairs.
Delerimar Realty Corp. acquired the properties along Fourth Avenue between 63rd and 64th streets in 2010, according to Department of Finance records. Since then, one building was listed on the alternative enforcement program in 2015, a pair of properties in 2016, and the program’s 2017 list released in January included a building owned by Delerimar, Housing Preservation and Development records show.
It has been a struggle for some living in the buildings, said one long-time tenant.
“We had to go to the bathroom with an umbrella for a while because every time the people above us flushed the toilet water would come down,” said Zoraida Brown, who has lived at the property for 43 years. “It was not difficult to get things before, now when I need something fixed it’s really hard to get it done. I don’t feel safe here, but I can’t afford to live somewhere else.”
The building also has a rodent and insect problem so bad that Brown and her family pack their food in plastic bags suspended on a hook in the kitchen wall to keep it out of reach of vermin, said Brown’s daughter.
“There is mice poop everywhere, we can’t keep the place clean. It’s nasty. I have food hanging in the bags to try and keep the mice and water bugs away,” said on mother of a 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter who asked not to be named. “It’s very frustrating — I can feel my blood pressure going up thinking about it.”
Valdes maintains that he and his colleagues are feverishly working to correct the outstanding violations, but claims he is being thwarted by uncooperative tenants.
“We’re removing the violations. Every single day we’re removing violations,” said Valdes, who believes he is being targeted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors because he opposed a controversial library redeveloped helmed by the group’s parent company.
“It’s difficult sometimes to work with tenants who don’t give access. They’re quick to open the door for inspectors to show them the problem, but not for fixing an issue. It seems they want to be perpetually complaining about problems and don’t want to provide a chance for us to fix it.”
In fact, the property listed on the 2017 alternative enforcement program was removed on May 17 after Delerimar made repairs. But the other three Fourth Avenue properties remain in the program, have racked up more than $71,000 in fees for emergency repairs and inspections, and have 287 open violations between them — down from a total of 461 violations when the buildings first entered the program, according to a Housing Preservation and Development spokeswoman.
Valdes stressed that he wants to work with tenants and comply with the law, but repairing the buildings is a daunting task and Delerimar does what it can, he said.
“We want to be a team with the tenants. I have a staff of three people over here to get access to units, and correcting things takes time,” said Valdes. “There are always a few tenants that will be disgruntled. In general, I think we provide a decent service, we maintain our units, 90 percent of our tenants are content.”
Valdes is challenging incumbent Councilman Carlos Menchaca in the September Democratic Party primary. The councilman, who has been in conversation with Neighbors Helping Neighbors regarding some of Valdes’s properties, condemned his challenger’s actions, but his office did not return calls for comment on whether he has pushed city agencies to address violations.
It is puzzling how someone with a track record of skirting city regulations is running for Council, said another tenant.
“I can’t believe a person like this is running for city council,” said Fabiola Carranza, another tenant in Brown and McGough’s building who says plumbing work caused a hole in her kitchen that allowed rodents to freely enter her home. “I don’t understand how there are all these violations, he’s on the [Alternative Enforcement Program] list, and it feels like nothing is happening.”