Problems plague apartment complex in East Harlem

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — The call for help came to PIX11 from 76-year-old Janelle Hackett. She lives on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 131st Street in one of seven buildings that make up the East River Apartments, a Section 8 subsidized housing development in East Harlem.

Hackett, a three-time cancer survivor with asthma, said the elevator in her building had been out of service for weeks. She lives on the sixth floor.

"I can’t get some of my medication because the elevator is broken," she said. "I can’t get my deliveries."

Three floors below lives her friend, 86-year-old Helen Campbell.

Without a working elevator, she said, "a lot of time I can’t get anybody to help me down the stairs. I’ve got to sit here and wait, call somebody to take my walker, then I’ve got to basically crawl down the steps.”

The broken elevator is just one of many problems at the East River Apartments. We checked city records and found there are 205 open violations with the Department of Buildings.

The front door locks are broken in all seven buildings. Tenants say the locks haven’t worked for at least a year.

“It’s unsafe," Billy Johnson said. “We have people who live here who just walk into the building. They hang out. They sleep on the roof. They have sex. They smoke dope.”

There was a fight in the hallway of one of the buildings involving two men who got in because the lock is broken. It happened a few weeks ago, yet we found the lock still isn’t fixed.

Johnson said his complaints about the broken elevator and door locks are met with the same excuse: "We’re waiting for a part. They’re always waiting for a part.”

In four of the buildings, the front door buzzer is busted

“How would I know you’re coming?” Hackett said. “You can’t ring me from downstairs."

After speaking with the tenants and seeing the problems firsthand, we contacted the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and asked for comment. We’re told they then went out, conducted spot inspections and issued additional violations.

The 170-unit low-income development is managed by Grenadier Realty. When I asked the on-site manager about the violations, she refused to comment and referred me to the owner of East River Apartments, Preservation Development Partners.

Brian Raddock and Francine Kellman are the two principals.

In a statement to PIX11 last week, the owner’s spokesman Richard Edmonds said:

“We are currently reviewing proposals from several licensed vendors to make permanent repairs to the front entrance and vestibule door locking mechanisms at East River Apartments, and we expect to have the repairs commence next week. Also, we are repairing our building entrance intercoms. Repairs have been completed to the elevator at 2182 Lexington Avenue and it is now fully operational.”

The broken elevator was repaired the day after PIX11 interviewed Hackett.

She said life has finally returned to normal.

“I can go to church. I can go shopping. I can go to my doctors appointments," she said.

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