A judge has issued an arrest warrant for a Bronx landlord that the city says failed to fix building hazards, and now, he faces up to 30 days in jail. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
People often build photo albums to remember loved ones, but in a Bronx apartment building where the walls have holes, the paint chips away and a skylight holds a decomposing bird, one man records the rats he catches in his apartment as evidence he and his neighbors live in squalor.
"We have rats. It's infested with rats, and it's not OK," said Annie Hernandez, who said her family has lived in an apartment at 1547 Commonwealth for years.
"I heard water leaking, and I'm like, 'There's no water leaking.' Then I, and it's just coming down, said Jamal Douglas, who just moved in months ago. He finds rodents droppings in each room despite putting down new traps often.
"It's just crazy right now," he said.
He said that the landlord doesn't repair anything, so he's trying to fix the apartment on his own and got some help from the city.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development, or HPD, has spent more than $100,000 on the 12-unit building, replacing the heating plant, providing fuel deliveries to keep the heat on and repairing recurring water leaks.
"All the walls were breaking and falling down," Douglas said. "I have children, so they came and they did that. They made it an issue because I have children."
HPD called it an emergency because the owner, James Caban, failed to act. The public advocate calls him the seventh-worst landlord in the city.
After two years of trying to take him to court for more than 300 open housing code violations and an unpaid $500,000 fine, a judge ordered an arrest warrant and sentenced Caban to up to a month in jail.
"I'm actually happy about it," Hernandez said.
"If this is what you're going to do with our money and you're not going to help us, then so be it. You brought it on yourself," Douglas said.
Caban's attorney promises to appeal the ruling, saying that many of the violations have been fixed.
Caban said he's out of work and the building is in bankruptcy. He said he can't afford the upkeep on the building and apparently even tried to argue that in court.
The city, though, said that's part of the reason for the arrest warrant, that he didn't prove economic hardship in court.