Updated 03/04/2010 08:30 PM
NY1 For You: Manhattan Tenants Spend More Than Two Years Without Bathrooms
Some Washington Heights residents who have been without bathrooms for over two years brought their deplorable living conditions to the attention of NY1 For You. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following report.
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Mornings are tough for Washington Heights resident Gladys Salva and her daughter Gina, who is blind and suffers from cerebral palsy and brain damage. The Salvas, seen above, have no working bathroom in their apartment and have not had one for over two years now.
"She needs at least to take two baths a day," says Gladys Salva. "So we have to put her on the wheel chair at 6 o’clock in the morning, when she wakes up wet, to bring her out to the cold hall to go to a vacated apartment."
The Salvas have had no choice but to use bathrooms in vacant unlocked apartments throughout the building.
"I feel very ashamed to live in a way that only animals live," says Gladys Salva.
The Salvas are in one of five apartments in a Washington Heights building where landlord Dorothea Levine had the bathroom toilets, showers and even walls torn out to supposedly make repairs.
Two-and-a-half years later, these tenants' bathrooms still lack fixtures and some walls have been reduced to bare wooden support beams.
"It’s not a livable, habitable situation. It’s really been a disgrace," says tenant Glenda Swanson-Massa.
"It's terrible, it’s terrible because we live like animals," says tenant Aida Wenzell.
Currently, only 23 out of 54 apartments are occupied and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development has 380 open violations on the building.
The tenants who live in rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments believe Levine is trying to force them out so she can collect market rents.
"I have said to the courts that they should put the landlord in jail as a result of the living conditions that these tenants live in," said Manhattan Councilman Robert Jackson. "No bathrooms for two-and-a-half years, a roof that’s running water all down the walls of the apartments, windows that are broken, electrical outlets, 20-something vacant apartments."
NY1 called Levine but she refused to comment on the story.
An HPD spokesman released a statement saying, "We are extremely concerned with the welfare of the tenants and the deplorable living conditions they have endured under present management. HPD's Housing Litigation Division has appeared in court repeatedly over the past two years in support of the tenants' petition to obtain a court-appointed administrator to run the property."
Tenants are now eagerly awaiting the court's decision, and NY1 will continue to follow the situation.
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