Vol. 18, No. 17 Sept. 8 - 21, 2005


Mayoral Candidates Tour Neglected Buildings


With the media assigned to their campaigns in tow, the mayoral candidates helped a coalition of advocacy groups bring attention to a problem all too familiar for many Bronx residents – neglected apartment buildings.

Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer toured two buildings in North Fordham (they were later joined in Manhattan by C. Virginia Fields and Gifford Miller) owned by Moshe Piller at the corner of Valentine Avenue and East 194th Street. Between them, 2654 Valentine Ave. and 237 E. 194th St. have 543 housing code violations, including numerous citations for lead hazards, classified as C violations, the most serious. (Piller also owns two neglected buildings on the Grand Concourse that the Norwood News has written about previously.)

The candidates saw many of the buildings’ problems, including non-working mailboxes, crumbling walls and ceilings and loose windowpanes.

“My door is falling down,” said Omesh Sankar, a tenant whose bathroom ceiling recently fell down. “It’s been a mess for the past two or three months. When you call, they say they will come and they don’t show up.”

The tour was organized by Housing Here and Now, a citywide umbrella group that includes the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.

“We wanted to use the tour to get the candidates to compete with each other as to who was going to have most aggressive plan for cracking down on landlords with bad track records,” said Chloe Tribich, an organizer with Housing Here and Now.

The group has spent the summer drawing attention to the city’s most troubled buildings and issued a report highlighting the city’s 10 worst landlords. Piller is number two.

In 2003, the city’s housing agency listed Piller as a “problem owner” with 22 buildings and over 9,000 violations. Housing Here and Now also reports that a federal bankruptcy judge forced Piller to sell six neglected buildings he owned in Philadelphia.

Housing Here and Now is pushing legislation called the Healthy Homes Act that would increase fines for severe violations and mandate that the city Department of Housing, Preservation and Development automatically re-inspect and make repairs in crisis buildings within 35 days. The owner would then be billed for the cost of repairs and a 300 percent fine.

The legislation also increases the liability for irresponsible landlords who used Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) to buffer themselves from legal action.

David Greene contributed to this story.

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