WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The uptown landlord who tenants said left them without electricity in the middle of winter has cost the city tens of thousands of dollars over the past 12 years, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Since 2001, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development has been forced to fork over $40,000 in emergency repairs to three buildings owned by landlord Hugo "Eduardo" Juarez, an HPD spokesman told DNAinfo New York.
Tenants in the buildings — 558, 560 and 562 W. 183rd St. — and HPD have taken Juarez to court to get him to finally pay attention.
"This is not the first time my building is without an essential service," said Miriam Ribera, a 20-year resident in 562 W. 183rd St., in an affidavit submitted to Manhattan Civil Court. "Mr. Juarez has a history of abandonment of the building, both in failing to provide essential services and in failing to make necessary repairs to my room and to the common areas."
Beyond the electricity, Juarez has left residents in that building without gas as recently as this month, tenants claim.
The drama began in February when tenants in the three buildings said they were left without power for three weeks after Juarez allegedly failed to pay his Con Edison bill. When elected officials demanded action, HPD stepped in and took control of the Con Ed accounts of the three buildings.
The city had to pay more than $6,300 on utility bills for the three buildings, between February and June 17, the HPD spokesman said.
Tenants in both 560 and 562 W. 183rd St. filed court documents against Juarez for the disruption of services. In June, both sides agreed to a settlement giving the tenants four months of rent abatement and establishing a schedule for the repair of all of the outstanding violations in the buildings.
In addition, Juarez was required to take control of the utility accounts by June 20.
While Juarez began paying the Con Ed bills on June 17, court documents show that he failed to take control of the accounts, prompting the tenants and HPD to ask the landlord be held in criminal and civil contempt.
Juarez reached a settlement with tenants in 562 on Monday, agreeing to pay $4,000 in civil fines to HPD and agreeing to add two more months of rent abatement, bringing 562's total to six months. The case for residents in 560 W. 183rd St. case is still pending, and HPD's case will be heard on Thursday.
Still, Ribera said she's sure the settlement won't put an end to their saga.
"Every year we have to take him to court," Ribera said in Spanish. "We're going to have to be back here again."
But Juarez countered that there was no problem in his buildings and labeled the complaining tenants as "squatters" who do not pay rent for the services they use.
"They pay no rent," he said. "Nevertheless the rules say the organization needs to provide them with services until they're out."
Juarez added that New Yorkers everywhere are paying out of their pockets for the residents in the three buildings.
"You and I are paying for these people to live there," he said.
City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who joined the tenants in court Monday, said he would continue to monitor the situation and again pressed Juarez to get rid of the buildings.
"If he can't provide good services to the tenants he should sell these buildings right now to a responsible landlord," Rodriguez said.