18, No. 17
Sept. 8 - 21, 2005
Mayoral Candidates Tour Neglected
By JORDAN MOSS
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
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
David Greene contributed to this story.
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