‘Truly shocking’: Tenants rally against alleged landlord harassment in Astoria

Screen Shot 2020-11-19 at 9.35.21 AM
Photo by Dean Moses

Tenants of a 16-unit apartment building in Astoria gathered outside their home on Wednesday, Nov. 18, to condemn their landlord for allegedly refusing to replace a faulty boiler, which has consistently caused hot water and heating outages over the past month.

The tenants of 21-11 27th St., joined by members of The Legal Aid Society and recently elected state Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, called for landlord Patricia Martin to fix the malfunctioning boiler as the city heads into the winter.

“The callousness of so many of New York’s landlords is routinely appalling, even under normal circumstances,” Mamdani said. “But in the context of a surging pandemic, grave economic precarity and mounting pressures on family life, Patricia Martin’s actions are truly shocking.”

Photo by Dean Moses

The tenants were organized by Mohammed Islam, who said that Martin has denied his request to have the heat turned on in the past, particularly last year after his wife came home from the hospital after recently giving birth. To mitigate the problem, Islam bought a space heater, which prompted Martin to shut off the electricity, Islam said.

“We have children. We have elderly people. We have sick people in the building,” Islam said. “When we requested her, her final word to me was, ‘If we don’t like it, we can move out.'”

Martin currently has 106 open violations issued by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. In addition to complaints about the heating, the violations range from failing to install proper lighting to failing to remove peeling lead paint from an apartment in the building.

The tenants, who all live in rent-stabilized unites, claim that Martin routinely threatens to evict tenants who complain.

Representing the tenants, The Legal Aid Society took action in Queens Housing Court recently, hoping to force Martin to address the conditions.

“This is an outrageous case of a landlord tinkering with her tenants’ rights by turning off their heat,” said Sateesh Nori, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society. “These are tenants who represent the American dream. They are immigrant families — including babies and the elderly, and essential workers. During this pandemic no one should be subject to such harassment and abuse.”

Martin did not immediately respond to QNS’ multiple requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Dean Moses.

More from Around New York