Manhattan Tenants Rally to Shine a Light on Shady Landlord

Residents in Morningside Heights are calling attention to tactics they say their landlord is using to trying to push them out of their apartments, as NY1's Erin Clarke reports.

The only thing stopping chunks of sheet rock from falling into Erasno Guerrero's living room is a plastic bag he's taped over a gaping hole in the ceiling.

"I was standing over there when suddenly all that came down," Guerrero said.

There are cracks and holes in other rooms, light fixtures that hang precariously that Guerrero has secured with more tape, water damage.

All caused by renovations being made to the homes above and below his.

And the apartment has been like this since September. Plastic on the furniture to protect it from dust and debris. Guerrero doesn't even sleep here anymore.

"I've been sleeping out because the dust, all those things, sick," he said. I feel constantly sneeze and coughing."

Guerrero is one of many residents who live in three buildings along this stretch of Broadway in Harlem acquired by BCB Property Management  — a company owned by Robert Durst's estranged wife.

They held a rally Saturday to bring attention to these issues saying the owner is making it unbearable for them to live in their homes while renovations are being made.

"We haven't had gas for example since September 1," said David Hanzal, of the Manhattanville Tenants Association. "Dust particles everywhere. they don't use dust doors and we have problem breathing."

Upon first glance the buildings look good — glass chandeliers and new flooring at the entrances, but repairs for existing tenants are being ignored.

"I currently have a 'Class C' violation in my bedroom in the ceiling a big crack where a piece of sheet rock could potentially come down," said Robert Sabin a resident of one of the buildings.

"We can't get a leaky faucet fixed, we can't get our floors that are caving in fixed," he added.

Tactics elected officials say this landlord has used before to try to push existing tenants out and replace them with higher paying ones.

"They were found to do similar unscrupulous tactics in Crown Heights, in Williamsburg in Brooklyn," said City Councilman Mark Levine.

An approach they say there's no place for in this city.

"We cannot allow New York City become a city just for luxury condos," said Public Advocate Letitia James. "This has to be a city for all New Yorkers."

And they say they'll push for stronger enforcement of the laws that protect tenants.

BCB Property did not respond for comment.

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