By Carla Zanoni
UPPER MANHATTAN — A group of tenants who live in three apartment buildings owned by the same landlord united last week to push the owner to do something about the colony of rats that pillage their trash and swarm their sidewalks after the sun goes down.
A group of approximately 40 tenants from 79, 83 and 87 St. Nicholas Place, between West 155th and West 154th streets, came together Wednesday to call on local officials and community organizers to rid their homes of the pesky rodents.
"This landlord hasn't done anything to help us, even though we complain all the time," 19-year-old Delano Harper, who lives in 83 St. Nicholas Pl., said Wednesday night at a rally organized by tenant rights group Minerva Mirabel and attended by City Councilman Robert Jackson.
Eriberto Ramos, a 22-year-old who lives at 79 St. Nicholas Pl. with his mother, said the tenants had attempted to get rid of the rats themselves for years, even bringing cats to live in the basement to kill the rodents.
"We would just find the cats dead instead," he said.
Carlos Leichter, executive director of Minerva Mirabel, said his group planned to draw on resources like that of the offices of Councilmen Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez to pressure the landlord to provide pest control and make much needed repairs.
Although the buildings are technically located in Harlem, just south of West 155th Street, he said the proximity to Washington Heights makes the issue of shared concern between the Council members.
"You are living in an inhumane way," Leichter said in Spanish, telling the crowd that he would attempt to get a rent reduction for tenants, because of the conditions. "We hold the landlord responsible and will make him pay."
Jackson promised the same, imploring tenants to call 311 to formally log complaints about their living conditions.
"We will work together to make sure your rights are protected," he told the tenants who had gathered in front of 79 St. Nicholas Pl. just after 7 p.m. Wedensday. "We are going to organize in an effort to make sure your apartments are safe and clean."
Landlord Ralph Saloff, who owns close to 30 buildings in Manhattan and The Bronx, did not return calls for comment.
According to the Health Department, the three buildings have failed multiple inspections related to the rats and overflowing garbage since the beginning of the year.
The department’s Pest Control Services has baited each building at least once per month since February.
Property owners are charged for exterminations, compliance inspections and Environmental Control Board fines resulting from issued violations, according to the agency.
According to the Department of Housing Preservation and development website, the three buildings have racked up nearly 100 violations in the past year.