I have been following the situation at 452 Fort Washington Ave. for about a month now. Tenants have been litigating with their landlord, Dorothea Levine, for over four years because they find the building’s conditions unlivable.
Here are some of the problems in the building:
- Three apartments have not had working bathrooms since January 2008, residents go to neighboring empty apartments, some of which don’t have electricity. If they want to use electricity, they have to pay extra.
- At least one apartment has had a gutted room for about four years. Rats and roaches get in through the demolished walls and during the winter it is very cold because of lack of insulation
- The badly leaking roof causes many apartments’ walls and ceilings to crumble from the water damage.
After Levine testified at a Friday morning hearing at housing court that she was not aware of any unanswered repair requests, I got a chance to speak to her lawyer, Jeffrey Roth.
He told me that Levine has put forth her best efforts to try to fix the building. The reason why repairs are taking so long is that residents continuously deny her and her workers access to their apartments. Access is especially difficult to the apartments with the most damage, (the ones that don’t have bathrooms and the apartment with a gutted room).
A New York State Supreme Court complaint filed by the tenants in July 2008 states that no tenant has ever refused the owner entry to make repairs or remedy dangerous conditions.
Another reason for delay in repairs is that HPD has not approved Levine’s plans for repairs. According to the HPD website, no new plans have been filed since June.
The litigation to repair the problem units is one of three lawsuits the building faces. The tenants have also filed a lawsuit with the New York State Supreme Court, suing Levine for $18 million for mental distress caused by the living conditions. Levine has filed a countermotion, suing the tenants, who have been on rent-strike for about four years, for rent owed.
Roth and Bruno Bianchi, the tenants’ lawyer hope the litigation to repair the building will end some time in January.
“We are hoping that at some point the tenants and the landlord will get along and they will all live in harmony,” said Roth.
Bianchi and the tenants hope that the city will appoint a manager to take care of the building.