Housing / Video

Tenants of notorious building await new landlord

 

Former owner sold 1058 Southern Blvd. in February

For the first time in nearly 35 years, residents of 1058 Southern Boulevard will be answering to a new landlord. It’s not a minute too soon, say the 55-unit building’s long-beleaguered tenants.

In 2012, then- Public Advocate Bill de Blasio placed the building near Westchester Avenue on his “Worst Landlords Watchlist” because it had logged hundreds of safety violations. The following year, the city’s Housing Preservation and Development department forced the former landlord, Miriam Shasho, to pay for the most urgent repairs and clear up the most dangerous violations.

Although tenants say those stopgap measures helped in the short run, conditions remain woeful. A leaky roof has caused widespread mold and mildew. Rats, mice and roaches are everywhere. The elevator, boiler and front door locks are often broken.

Shasho recently filed for bankruptcy and the building was auctioned off in February for $15 million at a Marriott Hotel in Queens.

Although a lawyer for the new owner, Stephen Song, declined to name his client, he said the incoming landlord is also the owner of C & J Brothers, Inc. According to a New Department of State corporation listing, that company is run by Chang Y. Park, who also owns a stall inside the Hunts Point Terminal Market.

On the afternoon of the building’s sale in February, tenants expressed guarded optimism that improvements will be made.

“Look, I can’t live like that,” said Abigail Acevedo, who has lived in the building for more than 40 years, as she watched beads of water drip from the leaky roof through her mold-covered hallway ceiling.

Acevedo works as a house cleaner in Manhattan, a job she said is relaxing compared with the battle she wages against the mold in her top-floor apartment every day. Her apartment became a symbol of the building’s dilapidated state in several news stories before renovations were made in 2013.

But less than two years later, the mold is back.

“Once you see it like that, it spreads like fire,” said Lisa Ortega, a longtime resident who has been working with housing advocates to help her fellow tenants navigate city agencies and housing court.

One of those advocates, Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, said that despite the years of battling for their rights, the tenants are nearly back to square one.

“It’s really bad right now, it’s almost as bad as it’s ever been,” said White.

Many of the tenants receive Section 8 or live in rent-stabilized apartments and say they can’t afford the expense of moving.

Conditions hit bottom after 2007, tenants say, when former owner Egal Shasho died, leaving his wife, Miriam, to take over the building. Egal used to bring buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and blankets when there were problems with the boiler, they recalled, but when his wife took over, even that changed. She overcharged them on their rent and posted false eviction notices to get them out, they say.

Miriam Shasho did not return requests from the Express for comment.

Despite its problems, the building was not included on Public Advocate Letitia James’ “worst landlords” last year, but a representative from James’ office emphasized in an email to the Express that that is only because there are plenty of other buildings in the city that are in even worse condition. The representative wrote that violations “are only one piece of the puzzle to determine bad buildings,” and that the pubic advocate “is looking to expand criteria” to include more than the standard violations.

Conditions at 1058 vary. Some tenants said their apartments were in decent shape, but others on the same floor had myriad complaints. Abigail Acevedo said her apartment is overrun with rats and roaches. Her daughter recently woke up with a baby rat on her head.

According to a representative of Tamrak Management, the company that maintained the building during the Shashos’ ownership phase, “the mold issue is resolved,” and the boiler repaired. But the building’s informal super and round-the-clock repairman, who lives in a windowless room in the basement rent-free and bathes with a garden hose because he lacks a shower, says problems continue unabated, including the leaking of fumes from the boiler room into his living space.

Tenants say they hope for the best, but some fear the new landlord will make cosmetic repairs before putting the building on the market again. But the lawyer, Song, says they have nothing to worry about.

“It’s safe to say that when he’s investing this much money he doesn’t intend to continue to leave the building the way it is,” Song said, adding that his client plans to meet with tenants soon.

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