Vol. 15, No. 14      July 18 - 31, 2002



     
 

Landlord Begins Repairs After Court Action

By WILLIAM WICHERT

The residents of 15-19 West Mosholu Parkway North are finally receiving necessary repairs after bringing their landlord to court on June 17.

The tenants association originally went to court for a 7A action, in which the city would appoint an administrator to manage the building, but it reached an interim agreement with the landlord, Joseph Santangelo of CPR Management IX Corp. Santangelo received 30 days to make emergency repairs in both public areas and specific apartments, where sinking ceilings and rodents have become standard living conditions.

This latest development comes after five years of individual struggles and the united effort of a determined tenants association. Last February, the Norwood News covered a press conference organized by the tenants with the help of the Mosholu Woodlawn South Community Coalition, at which they demanded repairs and a 7A action.

As the court date approached, Santangelo added a fresh coat of paint to the hallways and the mailboxes that now glisten in cream and gold. However, without contacting the tenants association or its attorney, Santangelo went around to specific tenants asking them to sign a document as proof that he started repairs, according to many tenants and their attorney. While the tenants, many of whom cannot read or speak English, had the impression that they would be evicted by not signing, they still refused to sign papers with no attached translation. "He wasn't too successful in manipulating the system," said Ray Brescia, a lawyer from the Urban Justice Center who is representing the tenants.

After almost three years and 10 court appearances, Shutesha Earl has begun seeing improvements in her apartment. The bathroom ceiling, which collapsed a few months ago, has been fixed, but Earl doesn't believe it is fully repaired. "It's just a matter of time before it caves in," she said. However, the freshly painted walls and new kitchen sink are a refreshing alternative to past neglect. "There's a little relief now," she said. "We can breathe now."

Sleeping has become less of a traumatic experience for Marilyn Joseph, whose leaky bedroom ceiling was repaired a few weeks ago. Joseph claims that the pressure of a microwave antenna directly above her bedroom on the roof had been causing serious leakage on rainy nights for over a year. Before getting a new mattress to replace a damaged one, she would surround herself with bowls to collect the water. "When you come into your apartment, you want to be comfortable," said Joseph, who has seen a steady decline in the building since CPR took over management a few years ago. "When you can't sleep in your own bed, it's inconvenient."

"We're doing repairs," said Santangelo, whose building has accumulated 292 housing violations in the past 12 months. Santangelo partly attributes the decline in his building to tenant neglect. "I'm putting in new locks," he said. "I want to see how long they last." So far, the front door locks are in place and the keys have been distributed, but the security call box must still be fixed.

Joseph agrees that the tenants have to do their part. "The landlord could keep up the building, but the tenants have to help out," she said. Joseph would like to see a cleaner building where tenants do not leave garbage in the hallways and strangers do not hang around the area. She also hopes something is done about the drug dealing she says is rampant in the building.

On July 25, the judge will evaluate the repairs Santangelo has made and possibly give him an extension to make new ones.

"Any kind of agreement to go forward takes two to tango," said Brescia. "The ball is in his court."

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