By Alex Berg and Alex Abu Ata
Two weeks after Carmen Perez moved into her apartment at 1271 Morris Ave. in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, the bathroom ceiling collapsed. Water gushed into the apartment she shares with her seven children. That was last November, the beginning of an entire winter Perez endured without heat or hot water.
The ceiling was finally repaired only three months ago, 10 months later.
Perez’s problems are common to the tenants at 1271 and its sister building next door at 1269 Morris Ave. Many tenants live in rodent-infested apartments with sinking floors, cracked walls and tiling, leaks and broken windows. Last winter, Fidelina Espinal said she had no heat for four weeks in her apartment in 1271.
The management company has not been responsive to these problems.
“By the time you wait for these people you die,” said Linda Gonzales, who lives on the first floor of 1269.
Ocelot purchased the buildings for $1.95 million in 2007 from FJF Management, according to the city register. After the real estate investment company ran out of money in July, the building went into receivership. It is currently being maintained by receiver Marc Landis through Treetop Management, a company based in New Jersey. Treetop has been making some repairs to the building to prepare it for sale, according to the superintendent Juan Ruiz, who has lived in 1269 for three years.
There are currently 301 violations for 1269 and 237 for 1271, according to the department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Different management companies and building superintendents have come and gone in the last couple of years. Many of the tenants, however, attribute much of the buildings’ disrepair to Ocelot.
“The previous owners? There were a lot of problems,” said Ivan Jimenez, who has lived in a fourth floor apartment in 1271 for 30 years. “The super can’t do anything unless the landlord gives him the money to do so. But if the landlord doesn’t give him the money and the supplies, he can’t do anything.”
Of the 15 apartments in each building, seven are vacant in 1269 and two are vacant in 1271. There are no locks on the front doors of either building. Peeling paint, trash, condoms, mold and dirt line the hallways on many of the floors. Official complaints in both buildings range from mold to lead, and in 2007, 1271 was named one of the 200 most poorly maintained buildings by HPD.
“At one point rats came out of the ceiling,” Jimenez said. “Six rats fell into the tub.”
Some tenants pay low subsidized rent, around $400, or no rent at all like Perez, whose $1,100 rent is entirely subsidized. Many of the tenants owe tens of thousands of dollars in back rent.
Last week, the tenants’ concerns were briefly appeased when the heat came on. But some, like Carmen Perez, are unsure whether they’ll continue to live in the building after their lease runs out.