By Gabriela Resto-Montero
EAST HARLEM — Tenants living in a collection of foreclosed East Harlem properties formerly owned by a real estate firm that went bankrupt last year filed suit on Monday to remove the current property manager over allegations it is neglecting the buildings.
An attorney for the Urban Justice Center, which is representing 81 tenants from 45 of the 47 buildings previously owned by British firm Dawnay Day, claimed that EH Property Management, Inc. has continued to leave the 1,100 apartments in disrepair.
Since taking over administrative and maintenance duties at the buildings, EH Property Management has ignored building conditions and charged bogus tenants fees, according to the suit filed in New York State Supreme Court against the Bank of New York Mellon Trust Company, which is holding Dawnay Day's portfolio.
EH Property Management took over maintaining the properties when Dawnay Day filed for bankruptcy last year.
The suit seeks for the portfolio's receiver, Harvey Fishbein, to choose a new property manager and make repairs to the properties.
"We can't let these landlords get away with this," said Juan Haro of the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a group that has been working with tenants in the East Harlem buildings.
Tenants also oppose the sale of Dawnay Day's portfolio to Hope Community, Inc., an East Harlem-based nonprofit organization that has expressed interest in purchasing the properties.
Although Hope Community has been considered a better alternative to a larger building management company, Haro said the company has a history for being an absentee landlord.
"We want a landlord that will provide us dignified housing," Haro said. "Hope Community is not that landlord."
The group's charges of neglect against Hope Community came as a surprise to Walter Roberts, the nonprofit’s executive director.
His company already manages 1,300 affordable-housing units in East Harlem and work wells with its tenants, Roberts said.
"If they're casting us in the same way they talk about the Dawnay Day buildings, I don't know if that's a fair representation," he said.
The Urban Justice Center's lawsuit is scheduled for hearing on March 29.