Sanitation, Safety Violations Soar - Tenants Helpless
Tenants in three Rockaway properties 249 Beach 15 Street, 1410 New Haven Road, 1403 - 1421 Heyson Road and 26-45 9 Street in Astoria spent over a week without any sanitation, maintenance, security or management services.
“Do you know what garbage smells like since Thursday? There is pee in the hallways and garbage in our playgrounds — we don’t even want to go outside,” said Patricia Whitner, a 1410 New Haven resident.
Building staff came to work on July 15 to find the doors to their workspaces padlocked and their keys gone. Only a sign was posted on the door announcing the termination of their jobs due to new management taking over.
“We are protesting now for unconditional return,” said Joseph Marin, superintendent at 242 Beach 15 Street. “This is just getting out of hand, the management needs to let us do our jobs.”
According to 101 Precinct Lieutenant Messina, T.U.C Management, Co. and Allied Management Ltd. shared ownership. T.U.C was responsible for the maintenance and had a contract through 2007 with the 32 BJ Union, while Allied was responsible for collecting rent.
Allied is slated to take over all responsibilities on Aug. 1, but in the interim Allied fired the entire building staff with no formal notice.
Tenants said they were given no warning and called the phone number on their rent receipts for days only to hear an answering machine.
“Are they aware of human feces in the stairways? We keep calling and we just get answering machines,” said Cassandra Ellenbrook, a 249 Beach 15th resident.
Workers from the fire department and other city agencies came five days later to fine the management for sanitation violations, but Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager, said there was not much more the city could do.
“They looked at the garbage, wrote up violations and two minutes later they were gone,” Whitner said.
The manager of the building, Ava Winter, came into the office five days later only to lock herself in her office as tenants continued to knock on her door.
A pink Department of Sanitation slip announcing a court hearing hung from her door as Winter remained in her office, refusing to comment on the situation and occasionally sending out police “spokespeople” to make announcements.
With dozens of angry tenants crowding the building’s courtyard, police came to maintain order.
“All we can do is keep the peace and keep the union guys and tenants under control,” Messina said.
Edward Williams, Community Liaison for Congressman Gregory Meeks called Allied Management on behalf of Meeks.
“I told them the congressman was concerned about the issues and it would be advantageous to ensure a healthy environment for these folks and provide necessary maintenance and they assured me they would,” Williams said.
On July 20, Allied began sending new sanitation workers to start cleaning up but tenants said it wasn’t enough.
“We have to get some more people in here to help us. We have sick people and sick kids,” said Nydin Colon, a 249 Beach 15 Street resident.
Union workers said they would continue to protest and are planning a demonstration for next week.
“The new owner refuses to speak to us and they are breaking city law,” said Anthony Spataro, 32 BJ Union District Supervisor.
Spataro is referring to the Displaced Building Service Worker Protection Act that gives building service workers 90 days of protection against layoffs when a building is sold.
While the buildings are slowly being cleaned, neither management companies will comment.
“We just want some answers,” said Whitner. “These people have families and are in a union, they can’t just fire them out of nowhere.”