Some of Southern Brooklyn’s landlords appear to be slow to help in fighting for their tenants’ rights to heat, hot water and electricity, and may even be adding obstacles to the mix.
Take, for instance, the case of 301 Oriental Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, which we told you about last week. A horrible stench has haunted the building for weeks, ever since Hurricane Sandy flooded the basement, causing water to mix with barrels of oil in storage. Residents complain the landlord has done little to rectify the situation, and many are concerned about their health as headaches and fatigue have set in.
“It’s been a month, going on a month, and we still have no utilities,” said 20-year-resident Susan Vosburgh. “Apparently there’s still oil in the building. I doubt any utilities will touch us because it has to be safe when they come in.”
Although pumping has already occurred, Vosburgh said the unskilled migrant workers the landlord hires keep missing rooms filled with the toxic oil-water mixture, and just this morning returned for the umpteenth time to pump out the elevator pit. On their first attempt at draining the basement, she claims they illegally pumped the hazardous materials into the street.
“The migrant workers he gets for like a dollar an hour, they forget this room and that room,” Vosburgh said. “I just want this cleaned up, we’re breathing the fumes.”
Vosburgh, a cancer survivor twice over, also said she and neighbors – stuck there with no friends or family to relocate to – continue to worry about the health risks. She and her brother, who lives with her, have put tarps on the windows, but the fumes are coming in through the floorboards.
“When you call the landlord, he says he’s doing everything he can. But it’s crazy, it’s freezing at night. People have to live like animals,” she said.
New York City should deploy hazmat teams to clean the basement and then bill the landlord, Vosburgh argued, since he fails to do it himself. And once it’s all over, she intends to take the landlord – Hampshire Properties – to court.
A representative for the landlord did not return our phone calls as of press time.
Those at 301 Oriental Boulevard are not alone, though they may be one of the neighborhood’s more extreme examples.
Many buildings in the neighborhood remain without power, but Con Edison said their system is up and running, and that power has been restored to all homes and buildings that can be delivered to. Those without power are down because the electrical systems need to be repaired by the landlord and certified by his electrician before Con Edison will flip the switch.
That’s the case with many of the commercial buildings along Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road, where business owners need power to continue their recovery work, and get back to business. But, according to a few business owners who asked to remain anonymous, the landlords refuse to let the business owners bring in their own electricians. Yet the landlords have failed to bring in their own teams.
It’s a similar situation at 3030 Emmons Avenue, where hundreds of residents may remain without heat, hot water or power for several more weeks.
“We’re living in limbo,” says renter Lynn Guberman. “There’s no heat, hot water, electric, power. There’s nothing.”
Residents say they are being told it is going to be at least three to four more weeks before they get power back.
“Con Ed says, ‘Well, your landlord has to do this,’ and our landlord says, ‘Well, Con Ed didn’t do this,’ so we don’t get any answers,” says Guberman.
“The problem is we can’t point a finger at Con Ed or the landlord because we don’t know who is saying the truth. One says the other one has the responsibility or the liability and the other says the other has the liability,” says renter Sandy Cohen. “But we’re really not interested in that, we just want electric, heat, hot water. We just want to live normally.”
Do you know of a building in our area that remains without heat, hot water or power because the landlord has been slow to make repairs? Let us know in the comments section.