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Tenants Suing City's 4th Worst Landlord Over Roaches, Rats and No Heat

By Eddie Small | December 14, 2015 3:02pm
 Tenants at 1775 Davidson Ave. are suing their landlord over the conditions in their building.
1775 Davidson Ave.
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MORRIS HEIGHTS — A group of tenants is suing one of the city's worst landlords over conditions including rat and roach infestations and a lack of cooking gas, heat and hot water, officials said.

Moshe Piller — who was named number four on Public Advocate Letitia James' list of the 100 worst landlords in New York City, after raking up 1,431 violations at eight of his buildings — is being sued by 21 tenants at 1775 Davidson Ave. in a lawsuit that they plan to file with the Bronx Supreme Court on Monday, according to James' office.

"Let this be a message to all bad landlords, all slum landlords, all ghetto landlords, all landlords who do not respect the humanity of these individuals — and primarily because they are people of color and poor people— that you better step up to the plate," James said.

The tenants are demanding compensation for being forced to live in deplorable conditions, including vermin infestations and safety issues like malfunctioning elevators and a broken lock on the front door, according to a draft of the lawsuit.

The lock to the front door of 1775 Davidson Ave. was frequently broken between 2010 and 2015, granting non-residents easy access to the building, according to the draft of the complaint.

Resident Sonia Hernandez, 29, has lived without gas in her apartment for more than six months, from May 2 to Nov. 23, and without hot water and heat from Oct. 15 to Oct. 20. She's also still struggling with a scourge of rats and cockroaches in her home, she said.

"Those things scare me, man," Hernandez, who's lived in the building for seven years, said of the roaches. "I'll be running like a little girl."

Hernandez is also concerned for the safety of her 12-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter who could get hurt tripping over the damaged floors in her apartment, which have yet to be repaired, she said.

Tenants are filing the lawsuit against Piller through the Tenant Rights Coalition, a partnership between The Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, which is funded by the city's Human Resources Administration.

The building's tenants association has already taken Piller to Housing Court over sorely needed repairs, and they are now seeking financial compensation because they said he has lessened the value of their apartments by keeping them in such terrible conditions, according to the the draft of the lawsuit.

"Filing a case to get the repairs completed is not enough for bad landlords like Moshe Piller," said Joanna Ocana from Legal Services NYC. "This novel approach sends a message to all landlords: we will keep coming up with new ways to hold them accountable until they provide tenants the homes that they deserve."

Piller did not respond to a request for comment.

Lawyers for the tenants hope to get them more than $50,000 in damages.

"We pay our rent," said tenant Yovanni Garcia. "So why shouldn't we be fairly treated?"