EAST VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) — Affordable housing is so difficult to find in New York City.
So when tenants living in rent-stabilized apartments in the East Village were forced out after a fire, they wanted their landlord to make the repairs quickly so they could go back home. That did not appear to be the case.
“I love my apartment; it was my home,” Lucy Payne told PIX11 News. “It’s the only consistent thing in my life as a freelancer.”
Since 1996, Lucy Payne has been living in a rent-stabilized three-bedroom apartment at 11 Avenue D, near East Houston Street, for $2,087 a month — until last September. That’s when a two-alarm fire believed to have started in a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen raced through the six-story building, damaging the apartments.
The New York City Department of Buildings issued a vacate order until the repairs were made. But now after eight months, according to the tenants, no work has been done.
“The landlord originally told us six months and that’s obviously not the case,” Ise White, another tenant, told PIX11 News. “Our apartments are in great condition. It’s mostly the windows that need to be fixed very easily. There was no structural damage.”
Three tenants have hired a lawyer from Mobilization For Justice to take the landlord to a housing court to force the necessary repairs so they can move back home.
“Apparently, he’s dragging his feet,” Nikita Salehi-Azhan, the Mobilization For Justice lawyer and tenant advocate told PIX11 News. “Unfortunately, it takes a lawsuit to do anything about it. Because only four of the 16 units were occupied and three of the four are rent-stabilized. You can say he doesn’t have an incentive to get the repairs going,” Salehi-Azhan added.
The past eight months have been particularly hard for single mother Carol Yoon and her 11-year-old son. They have been out of their home now for an entire school year.
“The landlord has gone, completely radio, silent,” Yoon said. “It could be a couple of months it could be a couple of years.”
PIX11 reached out to the landlord, Gregorio Nunez, to ask when the repairs will be started. The landlord said a quick, “no, no no,” and hung up. The tenants will be back in housing court on Monday.