Jamaica tenants sue over poor conditions

Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

A group of Jamaica tenants has taken its landlord to court on grounds that the company left them in intolerable conditions despite numerous complaints and calls for help.

The Catholic Migration Office and Queens Legal Services filed a lawsuit against Zara Realty last week in Queens Civil Court on behalf of the 46 tenants of 90-36 149th St., contending that the building’s managers violated the New York Rent Stabilization Law, Consumer Protection Act and NYC Tenant Protection Act.

The suit maintains the tenants, who are mostly immigrants, have made several complaints about problems in their homes, including broken windows, rat infestation and mold, but the building’s owners have not responded to their requests for remediation.

In addition, the attorneys say that after a tenant moves out because of the problems, the owners immediately renovate and resell the apartment as a “luxury rental.”

“These tenants are taking action not only to defend their own rights, but to send a message that such actions cannot and will not be tolerated,” Queens Legal Services Housing Rights Project Director Ann Ascher said in a statement.

The man in charge of the building, however, called the lawsuit frivolous.

George Subraj, president of Zara Reality, said he and his staff have always been mindful of the tenants’ needs since his group purchased the building a decade ago.

The tenants had filed a complaint about the building’s problems with the state Division of Housing & Community Renewal back in June and Zara immediately sent in crews to repair the damage.

“It is a herculean task, but we got the job done,” Subraj said.

He added that the building is 70 years old and prone to damages, but insisted that his tenants are always tended to.

Tenants, however, said Subraj’s treatment is anything but cordial.

“Some people just can’t pay the rent because [the landlord] keeps raising the rent and he isn’t giving these people a chance,” tenant Nelson Lopez said in a statement. “I don’t like the way this guy is treating us, the tenants.”

The city Department of Buildings has issued four Environmental Control Board violations against the building since April, including failure to address building violations, according to the city’s records.

“By filing this lawsuit and standing up to their abusive landlord, these tenants have taken a courageous step not only to protect their rights, but to draw attention to a much larger problem,” Robert McCreanor of the Catholic Migration Office, said in a statement.

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

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