MORRISANIA — Tenants fed up with rats, leaks and broken bathrooms in what has been dubbed the worst building in The Bronx have filed a lawsuit against their landlord in hopes of finally seeing some repairs.
More than 20 tenants in the building at 919 Prospect Ave. have accused their notorious landlord, Seth Miller, of running a building that is dangerous to the health, life and safety of its residents, according to the lawsuit.
"I’ve been living here with my family — four kids and my wife — for approximately five years," said Rev. Leander Hardaway, "and I’ve seen conditions get progressively worse."
The reverend lives in apartment 2A, but his family has been forced to split their time between that apartment and an apartment on the ground floor over the past two weeks, as apartment 2A is in dire need of major renovations, according to the suit and Hardaway.
"I’m sleeping on the chair," he said, "because we can’t bring everything downstairs."
His bathroom has been completely gutted and rendered unusable, and it was not in good condition before that, either, Hardaway said.
"Before they did this, most of that ceiling was out anyway," he said, "but they did a sloppy job of putting it back, and I was actually holding some of the stuff together with duct tape."
Other issues at the apartments listed in the suit include bedbugs, a lack of heat and hot water, lead paint and mold.
The building attracted a burst of attention in October, when Public Advocate Letitia James visited it after debuting her 2016 worst landlord list and dubbed it the worst building in The Bronx. Miller himself is number 36 on the worst landlord list this year.
James was at the building again Wednesday, where she praised the tenants for organizing and filing suit against their landlord.
"Today the residents of 919 Prospect Ave. are standing up to say enough," she said. "Enough of the illegal tactics and harassment aimed at evicting long term rent-stabilized tenants in order to charge more rent. Enough of caved in ceilings and freezing apartments with no insulation."
James visited 72-year-old tenant Clara Wainwright at the building in October, who also had to go to a separate apartment to use the bathroom after the landlord ripped her plumbing out.
Wainwright has since been temporarily relocated out of the building and says she does not miss the apartment.
"I don't have to worry about coughing, sneezing, scratching my head," she said.
Although they have installed a new toilet and bathtub in the apartment since October, James maintained there was still a lot of work to do.
"Even though I'm thankful, l'm still not impressed," she said, "and obviously the landlord can do better."
The lawsuit, which the tenants' attorney Stephanie Rudolph of the Urban Justice Center said was filed Dec. 7, asks for a court-appointed administrator to ensure that repairs at the building are made. The tenants will make their first court appearance Dec. 16.
Miller could not be reached for comment.
The building currently has 18 open violations with the Department of Buildings and 280 open violations with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Hardaway maintained that conditions had become incredibly dangerous over the past five years.
"When violations are not heeded, they’re just tragedies waiting to happen," he said, adding that it is "just a matter of time before somebody loses their life in this building."