1999-06-05 / Front Page

Rent Strike Called

By John McLoughlin

They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore! That was the message given by the Surfside building tenants to their landlord at a meeting held on Tuesday June 1, which resulted in a vote supporting a rent strike.

S.H.A.F.T., the tenant association representing the residents of 106-20 Shore Front parkway and 1 Beach 105 street, organized the gathering. Barbara Buffolino, president of the association, immediately discussed the present conditions of the buildings. In September, 1996 S.H.A.F.T. was given a copy of an engineer’s report that stated each building needed $5 million worth of repairs, including replacement of parapet, brickwork, pointing, windows, and the roof. Scaffolding was erected three years ago in response to these conditions, but tenants claim that no work has been done. According to S.H.A.F.T., during last years summer storms, pieces of wood and metal from the scaffolding were tossed off, damaging property and cars.

With more than 28 services and conditions needing to be addressed, Buffolino and other tenants questioned why they should continue paying rent. "Pay rent…God knows where it is going," exclaimed Buffolino. Sure not in the building."

S.H.A.F.T. hired an engineer in 1998 to document the conditions in the building. The association’s report verified the original engineer’s report plus noted further deterioration.

Tenants expressed they were tired of the landlord just "sucking" money out of the building and not making proper repairs. S.H.A.F.T.’s lawyer, Bernice Siegal, said that most of the violations against the buildings were ‘B’ and ‘C’ violations, the most serious that require immediate remedy, but have existed since 1996. "You are honest people, this is an honest mission," said Siegal. "We must make a statement to the landlord to hold back money until repairs are made."

Saying that tenants have a right to "live here safely," Siegal explained to tenants that they could put their rent into an escrow account until their demands are met. Tenants unanimously supported the idea.

Responding to the concerns of the tenants regarding conditions of the buildings, David Zuckerman, a principal of Dayton Management, visited The Wave Thursday afternoon, stating that management is "working to resolve that situation" while experiencing "incredible pressure." He said management needs to borrow money to make the repairs but cannot find a lender because of a $50 million tax lien on the property, which has been disputed for 15 years.

Zuckerman adamantly responded to charges that he is making money off the buildings, saying that because of the unresolved tax lien issue, "none of the owners make a penny from the building."

Citing rent reductions as decreasing money for the building’s operations budget, Zuckerman said that problems would be addressed "on a piecemeal basis" with the focus on tenants having a "safe, secure, habitable environment."

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