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Evacuated Tenants of Unsafe Building Given Temporary Housing

By Carla Zanoni | April 2, 2011 12:24pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

Inwood — Nearly two months after 32 families were moved out of  dangerous homes,  more than half will finally be given new housing.

Tenants were ordered out of their 552-556 Academy Street apartment block after Department of Buildings officials deemed it unstable in February.

Elected officials joined the nonprofit Community League of the Heights (CLOTH) and the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Friday to announce a deal.

It will house 20 families in units provided by developer Vantage Residential until Academy Street is made safe.

The remaining displaced famlies have been placed in other residences through Upper Manhattan.

All families will continue paying the rents they normally paid at their Academy Street homes, according to Yvonne Stennet, executive director for CLOTH.

"This strategic partnership between government, non-profit and private institutions shows how working together can bring significant solutions," said Vantage president and CEO Neil Rubler.

Vantage Properties has been working closely with the Northern Manhattan community to "positively transform the historically tense relationship that New York City landlords and their tenants have experienced," according to a Vantage spokesman last May

On February 18, families were told they had to leave their homes when the Department of Buildings issued a vacate order to due serious structural issues discovered at the long-beleaguered building.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said the building had been allowed to fall into structural disrepair for at least ten years as a result of the negligence of absentee owner Rachel Arfa, the principal at Ocelot Capital Management and Ocelot Properties Management.

The politicians called on Arfa to relinquish the property’s deed to CLOTH.

Several tenants have been living at the YMCA on West 63rd Street on the Upper West Side since the evacuation took place.

Rodriguez and Espaillat had urged the city to find temporary housing in the neighborhood so as not to disrupt the lives of the building’s tenants any further.

"The tenants of 552 Academy worked together and stood up for their rights," Rodriguez said during a press conference held on Academy Street Friday afternoon.

"The many groups represented here today built upon that work, and have made the tenants' dream a reality."