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Rent Stabilized Harlem Tenants Say Landlord is Trying to Push Them Out

By Gustavo Solis | October 7, 2015 3:32pm
 Rent stabilized residents at 75 Saint Nicholas Place say the landlord is renovating apartments and offering buyouts in order to rent the new units for double the current rent.
57 Saint Nicholas Place
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HARLEM — The apartment down the hall from Joan Harden has granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and marble finishes in the bathroom.

Her kitchen, meanwhile, has mold instead of granite and, this summer, the bathrooms ceiling caved in because of a leak.

Harden is one of many tenants of rent stabilized units at 75 Saint Nicholas Place who say their landlord is trying to push them out using unequal treatment and harassment because they pay $1,200 a month for rent compared to the $3,000 a month those in the renovated units pay.

Harden declined a $5,000 offer to move out earlier this year, she said.

“[A property manager] came in to look at my kitchen and he said, ‘We’ll we need to do a lot of repairs, have you thought about moving out?’” said Harden. “That was like a slap to the face. I said, ‘No, if there are so many repairs that need to be done then fix them.’”

“I feel bad for the new people,” she added. “They are paying double what we are paying. Their apartments were fixed up but they don’t know about all of the problems in the building.”

Harden said her bathroom’s ceiling caved in because of a leak cause by a corroded pipe, and mold is starting to appear in the walls. Services like heat and hot water are periodically cut off without warning. This weekend, half the building didn’t have water, she and several residents said.

According to HPD, the building has 72 open violations for things like mold, roaches, mice, defective carbon monoxide detectors and broken cabinets.

When the renovations started, some tenants thought the building’s services would improve.

“I thought good, when they got all these people putting up three grand they will improve the service,” said Janet Stites, who has been in the building since 2006. “But they didn’t.”

The management company, Newcastle Realty Services, said all of their violations have been fixed and they are waiting on HPD to inspect the building so they can be closed out.

Newcastle has installed new boilers, upgraded the common areas and is repairing the building’s facade. Of the 16 units that have been renovated, eight of them are still rent stabilized, a spokesman said. 

When asked about rent stabilized tenants' complaints, the company issued the following statement:

“We welcome all our residents, and we are confident they will enjoy the spectacularly upgraded property. We look forward to a long and respectful landlord-tenant relationship with all residents, whatever their regulatory status.”

Several tenants have received buyout offers to terminate their leases before they expire, they told DNAinfo.

The practice is not illegal, but last month Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law prohibiting landlords from asking for buyouts less than 180 days after a tenant declined an initial offer.

The mayor told the Daily News that buyouts rarely "work out in the tenants' favor. They always work out in the landlords' favor."

A spokesman for the management company said buyouts have been made in limited circumstances.

Some tenants suspect that the unequal treatment of rent stabilized tenants versus the renovated apartment tenants is aimed at getting those who pay lower rents to move out.

Russell Taylor, who has been living in a rent stabilized apartment and also claims to have been offered $5,000 to move out, said there has been mold in his first floor apartment on and off since 2011.

Every eight months or so someone will rip out the moldy part of the wall and replace it, he said. But the mold keeps coming back. It usually comes in through his bedroom closet and is starting to affect his health.

“I’m on nasal steroids,” said Taylor, a singer. “The mold is in the walls of the bedroom so I sleep in this every night.”

The mold is also starting to come back to Harden’s apartment, which was repaired over the summer after part of the ceiling collapsed.

She has been in the apartment for 20 years, raising both of her sons there, but she knows that she cannot afford to pay the $2,900 monthly rent for renovated units.

“It’s a harsh reality, but like I say, you don’t really have too much of a say when you don’t own where you live,” she said. “You’re at the mercy of the owner. If the owner wants you out they’ll find a way.”