Bronx tenant says de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda overlooks those in need

Bronx tenant says de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda overlooks those in need

Bronx tenant says de Blasio’s affordable housing agenda overlooks those in need
December 16, 2016

A longtime tenant advocate in the Bronx claims New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing preservation efforts are not reaching those in need, and she’s planning a rally to highlight how the shortcomings are putting her building at risk.

Carmen Vega-Rivera, a tenant leader at 888 Grand Concourse, said her building is bound for the auction block Jan. 9, which she fears will lead to a new landlord making unneeded quality-of-life upgrades, raising rents and displacing tenants such as herself. Vega-Rivera said she has reached out to the city’s Tenant Protection Unit without getting a substantive response, watched her building cycle through the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Alternative Enforcement Program targeting the city’s 250 most distressed residences without significant results and waited for the mayor’s much-touted preservation initiatives to benefit her.

“What’s the preservation plan?” Vega-Rivera said. “What are you doing to prevent this from happening to tenants like myself, who are about to be displaced? … There is no preservation plan.”

She is planning to hold a rally at the Bronx Supreme Court to call attention to the issue at 2 p.m. Jan. 9, the same day the building is scheduled to go on the auction block.

City Hall said the owner of 888 Grand Concourse is responsible for fixing the building, and such work is unrelated to the financing of affordable housing units. The building contains rent-stabilized homes, and in August, a court deemed its landlord was not fulfilling its duties, and appointed a receiver to collect rents and allocate the money. Vega-Rivera said HPD should have used its authority to hire companies to do emergency repairs, and then bill the landlord for it.

“Over the past year and through the (Alternative Enforcement program), the city has overseen hundreds of repairs in tenant apartments and common areas in this building,” de Blasio spokeswoman Melissa Grace said in a statement. “While that interior work is ongoing, work budgeted at $600,000 on the landmarked building’s exterior is about to start. The city is ensuring these fixes are completed, and there is absolutely no reason city taxpayers should pick up the tab for maintenance in a privately owned building.”

Vega-Rivera said she is not very concerned about internal apartment fixes, but about her building’s most pressing needs: reliable, safe elevators, a boiler able to consistently provide heat and hot water and bricks prepared to withstand storms.

Sarina Trangle