The Real Deal New York

Nonprofit pursues affordable housing amid tenant complaints

West Harlem Group Assistance sued numerous times for alleged conditions at its properties
April 23, 2014 01:09PM

Harlem-based nonprofit West Harlem Group Assistance says it wants to develop affordable housing — a claim current tenants in the organization’s 45-building residential network question.

Residents who live in West Harlem Group properties have sued the organization numerous times in recent years, angling for compensation for injuries they say were sustained as a result of deteriorating conditions such as leaky ceilings, crumbling walls and broken pipes.

“Most of these buildings are kind of messed up,” Percell Hurdle, a superintendent in seven of the group’s buildings, told the New York Daily News. “When I was working in one of the buildings, the bathroom was falling apart. It was shoddy, patchy jobs.”

Hurdle says the worst in the bunch is 2049 Fifth Avenue, a property where one remaining tenant says she refuses to move and has not paid rent since last summer in protestation of a lack of services. The tenant, Audrey Quantano, has taken the landlord to court three times in an attempt to force repairs. In turn, West Harlem Group is trying to have her evicted, saying it can’t kick off a city-subsidized rehabilitation of the building until she exits.

Donald Notice, executive director of the group, told the Daily News that many of its properties are old and that it has shelled out $60 million over the past 12 years to cover construction costs.

“We’ve been really aggressive with doing preservation in these buildings,” Notice told the Daily News. “We have an aging housing stock and we have been doing restorations.”

Notice chalked up Hurdle’s comments to a “disgruntled employee,” adding that the construction “was not shoddy. We get tenants who tear up apartments,” he told the Daily News. [NYDN]Julie Strickland

  • Justice for all except ….

    What about “Joe” the Fujianese guy who was found living inside the bridge? I don’t understand the disconnect between careful handling of tenants like this and the genuinely homeless.

    Also, in the picture of the hallway water damage – that is caused when water is poured from above so it may have been someone playing with water instead of an actual plumbing repair issue so yeah, people do damage property that belongs to someone else.

    Is there some back story where the tenants coordinate repair issues and make it difficult to get something done? Or is the nonprofit thinking that they will claim personal injury accidents during repairs?

    They sound litigious.

    I’m sure there are stories that match up amongst owners. It’s just that SPONYs are scared. I think tenants know this and utilize this against SPONYs because no owner has called out any tenant for being a bad one – not in all of this news coverage but very frequently, the owner is being maligned and the papers report it as such.

    Maybe because owners can’t afford to sue tenants but tenants can afford to sue owners, correct?

  • untolerated and overcharged

    Maybe because this owner is a nonprofit, it can feel more comfortable saying tenants do treat their apartments badly. New York is not tolerant of landlords and other than 81 Bowery’s Donald Lee, SPONYs for the most part can’t trust that they are as free to speak as their tenants are.

    Given this situation, how would NY press cover it:

  • such an abusive system

    Surprisingly, the tenants are against the nonprofit group as if they have competing interests.

    Three years ago, Audrey Quantano indicated that she wanted to OWN her apartment. That explains bankrupting the building with repair issues:

    If these damage-inducing tenants owned the property, they would be considered slumlords but ….

  • cobblehillite

    the real problem here is how difficult it is to manage/develop and own affordable housing in NYC. rents are maintain at a very low level, underwriting standards are brutal, city agencies focus on compliance and keeping fees low, not on making sure buildings are built to last