By Gabriel Rom
On a rainy Tuesday morning, Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn), and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood) joined angry residents of 17-08 Summerfield St. in Ridgewood to call on Silvershore Properties to make immediate repairs to the rent-controlled building so that tenants could remain in their homes.
Chanting and cheering, the group of tenants, activists and civic leaders decried what they said was unconscionable disregard for tenant living conditions.
According to city Department of Buildings documents, the property has accrued 127 violations throughout 39 rent-stabilized units, an average of three violations per unit.
Reynoso said the property owner is purposely allowing the apartments in the building to fall into a state of such disrepair that tenants lose their Section 8 protection. Section 8, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, provides federal funding for subsidies for eligible low-income families to pay for rent. It’s a strategy Reynoso said he has never seen before.
Tenants who receive federal subsidies to help pay their rent approached Reynoso directly. The group of tenants alleged that because the building recently failed inspection, they had lost their rent subsidies, leaving them with the difficult decision to either stay in the building at rents they cannot afford–or pack up and find new housing in an increasingly expensive city.
“Usually what property owners do is start construction inside their apartment and the tenants just can’t live in those conditions,” Reynoso said. “But we’ve never seen this before. There is a complete disregard for the tenants.”
Reynoso offered the Alternative Enforcement Program as a possible solution. Under that program, city services make repairs in the building and then charge the landlord for those repairs. In those cases, the landlord cannot file for any future building permits without paying for the repairs.
Gloria Nieves, a tenant, said she has a crack in her kitchen ceiling and water leakage in another room.
But her problems pale in comparison to those of other apartments, where she said ceilings are caving in.
Out of the building’s 127 violations, 27 are Class A, which means the city requires repairs to be completed within 48 hours.
“We have requested certain tenants to permit us access to their apartments to make repairs and they have repeatedly denied us access,” a spokesperson for Silvershore said. “We have requested certain tenants to permit us access to their apartments to make repairs and they have repeatedly denied us access. Silvershore is making and will continue to make every effort to correct all violations and make necessary repairs at the property,” they added.
“The gentrification situation—” Reynoso stopped himself. “No, not even the gentrification of Ridgewood, but the speculation in Ridgewood is second-to-none. It’s happening like it happened in Williamsburg and Bushwick. The developers are almost identical. They just keep moving to the east. Queens is the next stop.”
The building was purchased by Silvershore for $10.6 million in November 2015.
For Nieves, the time for organized action is now.
“I’ve heard people say ‘I’m afraid, I can’t fight.’ But if you don’t fight, nobody is going to hear you,” she said
As the protest wound down, a driver riding past leaned out her window.
“You’ve got to fight for your rights,” the woman shouted to the few remaining protesters. “I know how this is, I’ve seen this happen. Good luck.”
The tenants nodded in approval/thanks and the driver sped away.
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]