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Officials Put Pressure on Uptown Landlord Who Stopped Paying Electric Bill

By Nigel Chiwaya | March 2, 2013 10:44am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Several city and state elected officials joined forces Friday afternoon in order to put pressure on a Washington Heights landlord who left his tenants without power after he stopped paying his electric bill.

The group, led by city Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, demanded that landlord Eduardo Juarez make necessary repairs to his buildings or sell them to someone who will.

"Mr. Juarez has two choices," Rodriguez said, "repair all the violations in all seven buildings, or sell them to a responsible landlord who will keep rent affordable in our community."

"He has tried to make the lives of these tenants a living hell, and that's exactly what we are going to do right back to him," added Quinn, who was joined by Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Democratic District Leader Mark Levine and Community Board 12 Chairman George Fernandez. Quinn added that enforcement officers from the city Department of Housing and Preservation would be conducting a full investigation of Juarez's buildings.

Quinn also threatened to take the landlord to court for repairs, saying: "We are not going to let greedy individuals buy buildings, think they can run them into the ground and think we are going to look the other way and let them make money on the backs of hardworking tenants."

Tenants in three of Juarez's buildings — 558, 560, and 562 West 183rd streets — went without power for three weeks in February after the landlord stopped paying his electricity bill. Officials said that HPD has stepped in and taken over the ConEd accounts for the buildings, two of which have had power turned back on. An electrician was on site at 558 West 183rd Street Friday afternoon.

The tenants, with the help of the Goddard Riverside Community Center, took Juarez to court on Thursday, and obtained a default judgement ordering repairs when Juarez failed to show.

While tenants celebrated the return of the lights, one tenant, Miriam Rivera, warned that Juarez has a long history of failing to keep up his buildings.

"This situation isn't new. We've been dealing with it since 2001," Rivera said in Spanish.