Some residents of one rent-stabilized Astoria apartment building say they are tired of having to fight for what should be their basic rights as tenants.
Sally Aponte has been living at 28-28 35th St. since 1995 and said she started having issues with the building’s landlord, Peter Hiotis of P & T Management CO LLC, when it came to getting repairs completed within her apartment.
At first, Aponte decided to verbally ask her landlord for help with regard to these repairs, such as fixing a kitchen stove or repairing broken bathroom tiles, but after receiving what she calls “patchwork repairs,” she decided to finally file a formal complaint to 311 in 2007.
“He tends to always blame the tenants whenever you ask for repairs and I think he uses that to discourage you to ask for repairs,” Aponte said.
During this time, an attorney for the landlord also sent Aponte a letter advising her that if she made any further complaints, Hiotis would have to pursue eviction because she was allegedly violating the “rent stabilization code.”
Aponte added that the stove was fixed because Hiotis was fined by the FDNY but the rest of the problems in her home remained ignored until an inspector from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) went to the home.
The inspector found nine violations within the home, such as exposed and sparking electrical wiring, defective and broken plastered surfaces on walls and ceilings, and a defective smoke detector.
And although some of the repairs have since been completed, albeit improperly, Aponte is facing eviction.
According to court documents, Aponte is facing eviction because she is being accused of withholding rent, harassing other tenants, and defacing vehicles of her landlord and other tenants. However, Aponte says she has evidence proving all those accusations as false and believes the eviction comes as a form of retaliation for reporting past and present neglected repairs.
“I didn’t do anything except stand up for my rights but here we have a landlord who is clearly abusing his tenant landlord rights and unfortunately I have to go through this process before I can claim my innocence and that’s unfair,” Aponte said.
Christie Agioutanti, who has been living at 28-28 35th St. for over 25 years, said her issues began in 2013 when she reached out to get her stove repaired. She says she had to go four months without a stove until she got a new one.
The following year she dealt with a broken refrigerator and after going through weeks of problems, Agioutanti became fed up and decided to take Hiotis to court with 28 outstanding repairs.
After an HPD inspector went to the home, they found 20 of those needed repairs to be violations, including a massive hole in her bathroom ceiling that had been covered by a drop ceiling.
Photos of the hole show deteriorating wooden beams and exposed water pipes. Agioutanti added that when the hole was fixed by an unlicensed contractor, it was patched up by layers of sheetrock and plaster and painted over.
A licensed carpenter, who asked to remain unnamed, was approached by The Courier with photos of the hole and the repair process. He said that although the sheetrock covers the issue, it does not solve it. He added that if the repairs are not completed from within the structure of the building, for example by repairing pipes or beams, then it would be just a matter of time before the damage would occur again.
Some of the violations that the HPD identified in Agioutanti’s apartment have yet to be repaired or have not been completed in a satisfactory manner, and she said that if she doesn’t not hear back from Hiotis’ lawyer, she will be forced to return to court.
Other issues throughout the building include a broken intercom system, and a super who asks to not be bothered past his work hours, according to the tenants.
Both Aponte and Agioutanti also add that other tenants are facing the same issues within the building but are afraid of speaking out because they fear facing eviction. They hope telling their stories will help other tenants come out of the shadows.
“He wants us tenants to live in the darkness,” Agioutanti said. “If you don’t know your rights, you can’t claim them.”
Hiotis declined to comment pending litigation.