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Vantage residents fight loss of supers

Tenants of several buildings owned by Vantage Properties are upset the company has phased out superintendents in 14 of its buildings in favor of a 24−hour service hotline.
By Jeremy Walsh

The tenants of a major residential landlord in Queens joined with City Councilman Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) to denounce what they said is the company’s strategy of eliminating building superintendents through a city loophole.

Vantage Properties and the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development disagree, however, arguing that the process is sanctioned by the city.

“I’ve heard countless complaints from tenants who feel abandoned,” Gioia said. “They’re concerned their buildings are falling into disrepair and that needed repairs are not being done.”

Vantage denied it was reducing tenants’ level of service in 14 of its buildings, noting it has established a 24−hour, toll−free maintenance hotline for tenants that was approved by the department.

“Calls are answered within three minutes, each caller is guaranteed an appointment within 72 hours and each resident is asked to confirm that they are happy with the service they received,” Vantage CEO Neil Rubler wrote in a recent letter to the TimesLedger Newspapers.

But tenants complain that the phone number makes it difficult for Spanish−speaking tenants to reach an operator and the service is a poor substitute for having a superintendent down the hall.

“If you have an emergency after business hours, your call gets routed to a security guy at a desk, whose only recourse is to e−mail the property manager,” said Teresa Perez, president of the Queens Vantage Tenants’ Council.

HPD spokesman Seth Donlin said Vantage’s overall record of 4,500 violations throughout its 136 buildings is fairly good.

“There is slightly more than half a violation per unit, which across a portfolio of older buildings is not a bad violation count,” he said, noting that the relatively low number could mean either the buildings are being maintained or that tenants are under−reporting major building problems.

“That certainly happens in areas where you have immigrant populations, but across a 136−building portfolio across 8,700 units, I can’t believe … that tenants aren’t calling 311 if there really are serious problems with their units.”

He added, “That’s not to marginalize or disregard the seriousness of anyone’s particular complaint.”

Vantage, which acquired many of its 80 Queens buildings in Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside and Woodside from notorious absentee landlord Nicholas Haros in 2008, has drawn fire from housing advocates for allegedly forcing long−term tenants out of their rent−stabilized apartments to renovate them and rent them at much higher rates.

Vantage has denied harassing tenants, but advocates filed a lawsuit against the private equities−backed company last year. The suit is still pending.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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