Government / Housing

Deterioration, intruders plague Longwood building

Annie Nova

The entrance to 967 Kelly Street.

967 Kelly Street tenants say management is ignoring major problems

Last year during Easter, Trisha Douglas, a 27 year-old whose cerebral palsy has confined her to a wheelchair, arrived at her home at 967 Kelly Street with a friend to discover that the elevators were not working. Firemen had to carry Douglas up 12 flights of stairs to her apartment. Because her friend was unable to make it up all those stairs, Douglas spent the holiday alone.

Tenants of the nine year-old Longwood building say that a chronically faulty elevator is just one of many serious problems they are forced to contend with on a regular basis. 

“The water turns off twenty times a day,” said Douglas.

Another tenant, Lisa Thompson, who shares an apartment with her son and grandson, said that since moving to the building, “it’s been nothing but hell.”

“In seven years, we’ve never been able to use the community room,” she said. Tenants should be able to access it to hold graduations and birthday parties, she said, but instead it is used for storage.

Tenants also report that the heating system rarely works, untreated water damage from the rain is extensive throughout the building, access to the laundry room is sporadic, rats run rampant, holes in walls and broken pipes go unrepaired and building security is non-existent.

Through all their frustrations, they say, the company tasked with overseeing the building, Wavecrest Management, has been elusive and, at times, hostile to their pleas for repairs and accountability.

“Management just says ‘we’ll tell maintenance,’ and then nothing ever changes,” said tenant Brigada Santos.

“If they can get away with it, they will,” said a tenant who declined to give her name for fear of reprisal by management and the building’s superintendent. “Management is rude and unprofessional. They have no respect for tenants.”

“It takes over a year to get one repair,” contended another tenant, who declined to give his name because he has begun legal proceedings against the landlord. The Department of Finance lists the landlord as Intervale/Westchester LLP, but a phone call to their listed number led to a voicemail message from a broker for Progressive Realty. The broker did not return a request for comment from the Express.

The Department of Buildings lists 73 complaints and 36 violations for the building, three of which are still open, all pertaining to the elevator.

A Wavecrest representative said tenants’ complaints are unfounded.

“So they don’t always pick up,” said Michael Gazal, the company’s legal and collections manager angrily, defending his colleagues, in a brief phone conversation. “Doesn’t everyone step away from their desk?”

Wavecrest’s repairs coordinator, Cristina Pimentel, said the company forwards all complaints on to the building’s super. But the super is part of the problem, say tenants. He has hung a sign on his door warning them not to knock except in emergencies, walks with aggressive dogs at his side, and dismisses requests for repairs. Even when they are locked out, they say, the unwritten rule is that they’re not to ask him for help getting in, even though he has spare keys to access their apartments. In fact, tenants say management has told them they’re prohibited from speaking to their super directly.

“We’re told to take care of it ourselves,” said Douglas, adding that on one occasion she sat in her wheelchair outside her apartment for hours, waiting for her mother to bring a copy of the key to let her in.

Tenants add that they feel unsafe in the building. Strangers often roam inside, and homeless people camp out on the steps inside the entrance. Four months ago, the laundry room was robbed, leading many to opt to wash their clothes at a laundromat around the corner.

“He brings in people on drugs,” said resident Otelia Stephens , a medical assistant at a city hospital, and mother of two, referring to the super.

Tenants say they have called the office of State Sen., Ruben Diaz, Sr., for whom the building was originally named when it was built in 2006, but their complaints have gone unheeded. Diaz responded that his door is open.

“I’ve never heard from anyone in the building,” said Diaz in his office on Rogers Place, three blocks away. “I have to know that there is a problem before I can do anything about it.”

Recently, Diaz’s name was removed from the front of 967 Kelly Street. Although tenants speculate that the Senator doesn’t want his name affiliated with the management company, Diaz said he’s never heard of Wavecrest.

Tenants say they will continue seeking help from their elected representatives and calling Wavecrest when repairs are needed, but many already have their hands full with two or more jobs and families to support. They say fighting to protect their homes is like having another job. Several of them attended a Community Board 2 housing meeting in June to ask for help. Housing committee chair Joyce Campbell Culler said the board will look into their complaints.

Stephens said she hopes to move away as soon as she can.

“I’m a simple person but I can’t live like this,” she said. “It was better in the projects.”

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