By Jeremy Walsh
After a year of demonstrations, criticisms and tense meetings, members of the Queens Vantage Tenants Council appear to have made progress with their landlord, Vantage Properties.
But that did not stop 50 of them from rallying in front of a Vantage-owned apartment building in Sunnyside Monday to urge further reforms.
The tenants’ union met with Vantage President Neil Rubler Oct. 12 to discuss 19 demands, including extending Vantage’s office hours past ordinary business hours, accepting rent checks in person at the office, providing tenants with a complaint number for repair requests and providing a breakdown of the balance owed in the case of late payments.
The group asked Rubler to respond in writing within two weeks. They received his e-mail shortly before the rally started, organizers said.
Rubler told TimesLedger Newspapers in an interview last Thursday that the company is reformatting its bills to make them more easily understandable and bringing in a translation service for phone calls with tenants who speak languages other than English or Spanish. Until Vantage gets the new billing process up and running, the company will stop charging late fees, he said.
Cole Rosengren, 22, a building leader for the tenants’ union, said Vantage had conceded to some of their demands like tracking numbers and extended office hours, but the wording elsewhere in the document was vague.
“It’s a start, and it’s making progress, but it’s certainly not enough,” he said.
John Klukas, president of the QVTC, had harsher words.
“They continue to give their tenants as little as possible as late as they can get away with,” he said. “We will work harder and grow stronger in our fight against them.”
The tenants were joined by elected officials, including state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Ridgewood), City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) and Council hopefuls Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer.
“It sounds to me like another way to abuse our people,” Ferreras said of tenants’ allegations that Vantage has falsely billed some of them for thousands of dollars in back rent and penalties.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.