Residents rally for better living conditions at Ridgewood apartments

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Hany Taha is afraid that his ceiling will collapse on him.

He has lived in the same apartment for 26 years, but now the ceiling is sinking. Although he has complained about it for seven months, nothing has happened.

Taha is a resident of one of six low-income apartment buildings in Ridgewood owned by Ridgewood Realty of L.I. The structures have accumulated a total of nearly 550 violations, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

At a rally on June 19 outside Manhattan’s bankruptcy court, residents and officials demanded to meet with the company that owns the mortgages — an investment firm called Stabilis Capital Management — to discuss finding a “new, responsible owner.”

“There is no one here,” Taha said. “What we need is someone to take charge.”

While the six apartment buildings, all currently in foreclosure, are not a part of the same complex, they are within walking distance of each other.

Stabilis bought the mortgages in 2011. The original owner, Ridgewood Realty of L.I., foreclosed five years ago. But due to a delay in bankruptcy court, it is still listed as the proprietor.

Attempts to reach Ridgewood Realty were unsuccessful as of press time.

About thirty families rent at the buildings in question, which have six units each. The rent ranges from $900 to $1,050 a month. Tenants make payments to a court-appointed receiver.

Residents want to continue living in the buildings, but fear that Stabilis will sell them to a group that wants to build luxury apartments.

“We are trying to resolve it, but we don’t own the buildings. We don’t have control over them,” a representative from Stabilis said. “We are prevented from taking action because of the bankruptcy that was taken by the owner.”

Residents’ complaints include no heat in the winter, leaks from ceilings, rat infestations, mold and cracked walls. The front doors to some of the buildings are missing knobs, and a number of locks are broken.

“If Stabilis has no plan on how they will rehabilitate these properties to make them safe and decent for the families who live there […] they should exit this deal now,” said Kerri White, a director at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a nonprofit organization that fights for affordable housing.

UHAB had five of the buildings surveyed by Doug Timmons, an architect from FLM Construction Consulting LLC. He determined they would need more than $2.14 million in repairs to meet city code.