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The tenants of Hollis Court Apartments, a 27-unit apartment development in Hollis, Queens are fighting to keep their homes and to live with dignity.
Led by Chairperson Marilyn Mays, the Hollis Court Apartments Tenants Association is involved in an ongoing battle with the complex's property owner Joseph Kohn of 202, Inc.,
&#8220Kohn's 202, Inc. bought the complex for $5,000,000 dollars in 2005,” says Mays.
She describes Hollis Court Apartments as a complex of poor struggling single women and their families, many receiving rental assistance from the City's Section 8 program.
Mays maintains that since Kohn's acquisition of the complex the tenants' living conditions have reached new lows. A backed-up sewage system took months to repair and the department of buildings sealed off defective boilers resulting in tenants living with neither heat nor hot water.
Kohn informed his tenants in December of 2005, that management wasn't renewing leases and the company planned to convert the complex to two-family homes. Mays believes that Kohn plans to sell the two-family homes for $700,000 to $800,000 dollars and she says that neither she nor the other tenants can afford those prices.
After living in the community for 20 years, having raised two daughters as a single parent, she is enraged that she and the other tenants in the building were forced to live in conditions so unbearable that 14 of the 40 families occupying the complex prior to 202, Inc.'s ownership have already left.
&#8220They couldn't take it anymore,” says Mays.
&#8220Developers were never interested in Southeast Queens, and now that they are, we expected to be a part of the growth, not thrown out when it started to grow,” Mays says.
Mays worries most about the senior citizens in the building more than herself. My Seniors are on a fixed income - where is there affordable housing without a waiting list?”
It is thanks to the help of Legal Aid Society lawyer April Newbauer, Congressman Gregory Meeks' office, and many others that Mays says she can finally sleep at night.
Brian Simon of Congressman Meeks office answering the question of their possible displacement says, &#8220We can't tell people what to do with their personal property, we are more concerned with making conditions livable.” Mays credits Simon with being instrumental in helping correct a lot of the C violations such as water damage, loose cabinets, and fire-hazardous dropped ceilings that she says Kohn refused to repair on his own initiative. Meeks' office contacted Housing Preservation Development to make repairs to the complex and bill it to the landlord.
The tenants in Hollis Court Apartments don't just suffer from property negligence but harassment as well. According to both Mays and Newbauer, Kohn has used real estate agents to call tenants offering them money to vacate the property.
Newbauer says that despite &#8220The owner's campaign to empty the building of long-term tenants” they were able to restore heat and hot water to the complex and stop Kohn's harassment of the tenants.
As for May's worst nightmare, the possible conversion of the complex to two-family dwellings, Newbauer says that the Hollis Court Apartments are rent-stabilized and she doesn't think that the Division of Housing and Community Renewal is likely to destabilize the complex.
Joseph Kohn did not return repeated calls from The Queens Courier.

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