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By Gabriel Rom

Chanting “no justice, no peace,” residents of the Cunningham Heights apartment complex in Hollis rallied last week to protest what they contended is chronic landlord abuse and intimidation.

Residents accused property manager Jeff Wasserman of numerous tactics to push tenants out,including rent hikes, poor sanitation and the closure of numerous laundry rooms, leaving only two for 44 buildings.

“This place used to be immaculate—spick and span” said Elaine Hussey, a 25-year resident. “But the new owner doesn’t care about us, all he cares about is money.”

Hussey said the city and state agencies have been slow to address their concerns, many of which were formally lodged in October.

Multiple attempts to contact Wasserman for comment were unsuccessful.

“Harassment complaints just should not have such a long wait time,” said Penny LaForest from the Queens League of United Tenants. “Who is accountable here?”

According to a staffer with state Sen. Leroy Comrie’s (D-Hollis) office, residents recently met with officials from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

“I believe this is a systematic effort on behalf of landlords to push out tenants and increase rents—they want to make it market rate,” said Ali Najmi, a community organizer who was a candidate for City Council in November’s special Democratic primary election for Council District 23..

Najmi, who has been protesting alongside residents since the summer, said tenants are concerned with both cosmetic issues and deeper problems like intimidation and rent increases.

One resident, who has lived in the complex for less than two years, said her rent was increased by $625 with no warning. She now pays $1,875

“The manager speaks to us like we are nothing,” said the tenant, who did not want to give her full name.

LaForest criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to create 100,000 new units of affordable housing, saying that before new units are created, already existing units and tenants must be protected by the city.

“Before the city builds affordable housing, they need to protect affordable housing,” she said.

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Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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