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Tenants demand stiffer regs for landlords at Jam. rally

Salimah Allen, a tenant of a Jamaica building where rent has been raised for improvement projects, shows off broken pieces of her room during a rally. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

A group of Queens tenants said they have been forced to pay higher rents for non-existent improvements to their buildings, so they called on the state last week to improve its regulations over landlords.

The Queens Housing Coalition gathered 80 residents from buildings all over the borough Nov. 10 at 148-48 88th Ave. in Jamaica and demanded reforms of the procedures involved in implementing Major Capital Improvement rent increases. Landlords at some rent-stabilized buildings, including the Jamaica space, have been rubber-stamping the increases for work on the buildings that never seems to be done, according to Robert McCreanor of the Catholic Migration League, one of the groups involved in the coalition.

“We’re not here to complain that the rent is too high,” he said. “We’re here to call for a change.”

The state Division of Housing and Community Renewal must approve all MCI rent increases usually done for work on major improvements such as defective roofs, boilers and other basic building features. Ivan Gallardo, who lives in a building on 95th Street and 35th Avenue in Jackson Heights, said he and his neighbors had to pay $24.73 per room per month to fix the leaky roof, but the repairs have yet to be made.

The tenant said he was especially frustrated because under the landlord’s proposal, which was approved by the state, the residents who live on the top floor were exempt from the increase since they were closer to the roof.

“They are the ones that are affected not us, but they don’t pay,” he said.

Salimah Allen, who has lived in the 88th Avenue Jamaica building for 33 years, said her rent was increased to $36 per month for repairs to fix the elevator, but not only has the elevator not been fixed, her walls and ceiling have had numerous cracks for years.

Allen, who showed some of the broken pieces of her apartment at the rally, said she is concerned because there is a pending application for an additional $20 MCI hike for the same elevator.

“We don’t need increases, we need repairs,” she said.

A representative from the Division of Housing said that all applications for MCI increases go through a thorough process that mandates that the landlord submit a list of the work performed, provide certification of the contractors and an affirmation of maintenance. He also said that inspectors are sent to examine the building before the rent increase is approved.

Tenants said that was not enough and demanded that the agency enforce its inspection process and make the rent increase procedure more transparent by allowing the apartment renters to voice their opinion about the increase.

“We are here today as a coalition … to fight to preserve affordable housing,” McCreanor said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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