Nonprofit pursues affordable housing amid tenant complaints

West Harlem Group Assistance sued numerous times for alleged conditions at its properties

From left: 2049 Fifth Avenue, 500 West 134th Street and Recent Development 25 West 128th Street
From left: 2049 Fifth Avenue, 500 West 134th Street and Recent Development 25 West 128th Street

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.”

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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