Vol. 15, No. 12      June 6 - 19 , 2002


Briggs Building Has Hundreds of Violations


Even from outside the building, the decay and neglect at 3001 Briggs Ave. is detectable. The five-story Bedford Park building is covered in graffiti, several windows are broken, and many of the wood window frames are peeling and decomposing.

Inside, things are even worse. Tenants complain about rampant leaks, falling ceilings, broken radiators, mice, missing tiles and rotting floors. Also, with a broken front door lock and no intercom, the building is inviting to drug dealers and other criminals, tenants say.

Altogether, the building has 307 open housing code violations, according to the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Some of them even date back to the Beame administration in 1978.

Conditions have been deteriorating, said tenant Iris Medina, for the entire 15 years she has been living there. "People live in apartments with ceilings down on the ground," she said. "In my bedroom, one of my windowsills had a real big gap, like it's about to fall out. The plaster in the walls is cracking and my living room floor has lumps. It's not level and it sinks."

Lou Salvatorelli, who moved into the building in 1940 straight from his honeymoon, said he is tired of fighting for improvements. "It's an old story," he said. "I've got bugs all over my kitchen and bathroom. He had an exterminator for a few months and he disappeared. The landlord is dragging his feet on everything."

Seven of the 26 apartments are vacant, and some tenants withhold their rent in protest of the conditions.

The Norwood News reported on conditions in the building in July 1998 and October 1999. In 1998, tenants took landlord Nathaniel Eisner to court for outstanding building violations, ranging from leaks to missing tiles and to poor heating. (No one answered the phone at Eisner's office.)

The court ordered Eisner to make repairs, but so far he's only worked on a few. Eisner installed new mailboxes and made repairs to the roof. He also fixed a broken skylight that used to bring rain into the stairwells. In Medina's apartment, the landlord fixed broken tiles and fixed her kitchen ceiling. Eisner stopped working on repairs about a year ago, Medina said.

With so many outstanding violations, the building seems ripe for more tenant action. Carol Abrams of HPD said most of the violations are in the A and B category, meaning they are not life-threatening violations. But, she added, many of the violations have been neglected for years. Of the 307 outstanding violations, 276 were written in 1999 or before.

Abrams also said the building has little litigation history, with court action taking place only in 1994, 1996 and 1997. "If these tenants feel they are not getting essential services from the landlord," Abrams said, "they should be bringing the landlord to housing court and using the housing code violations as evidence."

Tenants working with organizers from the Bedford Park Neighborhood Alliance, a neighborhood improvement group, are trying to do just that. At a recent meeting of the organization, members discussed trying to get an administrator appointed to the building. HPD's 7A program temporarily hands over neglected buildings to an outside administrator, who collects rents and brings the building up to code. Councilman Oliver Koppell, who, at a recent community meeting, said the list of violations at 3001 Briggs was the worst he had ever seen, pledged his support for the tenants if they decide to go the 7A route.

Tenants said anyone who takes over will have a lot of catching up to do. "Walls are corroding and are getting softer and softer," Medina said. "Repairs a few years ago are coming down because they were just patch-up things."

Salvatorelli, now 84, said the building is so bad that the city should step in. "The [housing] inspectors write everything down, but they don't do anything," he said. "Something is wrong with this system. They should really take the house from him.

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