Harlem tenants target city for alleged renovation fraud

June 24, 2013 02:00PM

A group of Harlem residents are suing the city for fraud, alleging that its vow to renovate their 51-unit building on St. Nicholas Avenue instead left it in disrepair and foreclosure, and them $5.1 million in debt, the New York Post reported. The suit names the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, seeks $6.6 million in damages.

Problems began when the residents signed up with the HPD — then run by Shaun Donovan, now U.S. Housing Secretary — to convert the seven-story property to an affordable co-op from a rental. The deal stipulated that tenants would buy their units and inherit the mortgage while the city performed upgrades.

There were are exposed wires, a boiler not big enough to service the building and a leaky roof, which the repairs were intended to correct, the suit says. But construction expenses swelled to $5.1 million, from $4.5 million and tenants each had $100,000 mortgages. Now tenants say the city swindled them.

“There’s no way millions of dollars were spent on this building,” Carlton Burroughs, the president of the building — dubbed the Cliffcrest, located near West 157th Street — told the Post. “Someone saw a quick buck, and they took it. We got shafted from the beginning.”

An HPD spokesperson told the Post that “the matter is currently under review.” HPD didn’t handle the project itself, according to the Post — rather, it tapped two non-profits to manage the work: the Settlement Housing Fund and Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. [NYP]Zachary Kussin