Author Archives | ses2277@columbia.edu

Rate of Housing Violations Highest in the Bronx

A street view of the Housing Preservation and Development’s Bronx service center at 1932 Arthur Avenue. HPD is responsible for overseeing the health and safety of NYC apartments.  

More than 10% of Bronx residents lived in an apartment this past year that had at least one hazardous housing violation. 

Since October 2018, 14 out of every 100 people who lived in the Bronx lived in a unit that recorded a violation, ranging from a less serious Class I Violation, to an immediate hazardous violation called a Class C.

This rate is the highest number of any borough, according to Housing Maintenance Code Violations NYC Open Data.

 The city government agency responsible for overseeing the health and safety of New York City apartments is Housing Preservation and Development. 

HPD inspects buildings and upholds the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, which protects tenants’ rights to fire safety, heat and hot water, and protects them from gas leaks, rodents and mold.  

When HPD receives a complaint, it sends inspectors to the apartment to verify the complaint and look for other possible violations, according to Juliet Pierre-Antoine, HPD Press Secretary.  If the landlord is found to be in violation, HPD is responsible for making sure the problem is fixed, either by issuing a fine or taking the owner to court. 

“It’s a complete complaint-driven enforcement service that we provide,” said Pierre-Antoine. “It’s our job to hold landlords accountable, basically making sure they’re taking care of their responsibilities as a building owner for the renter in New York.”

Source: Housing Maintenance Code Violations NYC Open Data

If the violation isn’t fixed, HPD offers legal help to the tenant to take the landlord to court, she said.

Landlords can be fined up to $500 per day for a heat violation and up to $1,000 per day for other violations for a limited time period, according to the Metropolitan Council on Housing. 

If the situation is dangerous, HPD also has an Emergency Repair Program. It is unclear how often it happens, but last year HPD repaired $1.7 million in heat-related emergency repairs, according to a press release

“In an especially hazardous condition we can have a team go out to correct the actual area of a concern that is dangerous to a renter and then we will bill the landlord for that work,” Pierre-Antoine said.

Landlords who repeatedly violate codes, or find themselves in trouble with the court or with HPD, can be enrolled in a program called the Alternate Enforcement Program, which is also sometimes called the “babysitting program.”

“That basically means that they have a certain number of violations or a certain number of civil penalties that qualify them to be on the list,” said Pierre-Antoine. “We’re basically acting like a very aggressive babysitter because we do not think that they are doing right by their tenants and they need someone to watch over them.”

Since 2007, more than 3,600 buildings have been enrolled in The Alternate Enforcement Program throughout the city, according to Alternate Enforcement Program NYC Open Data.  There are currently 710 buildings enrolled across the boroughs. Almost a quarter of them are in the Bronx.

One of the buildings enrolled in AEP is 1895 Walton Avenue. This building was acquired last December by NCV Capital Partners and Lemor Development Group as part of a 13-building portfolio the organizations are repairing, according to Keith Gordon, of NCV Capital Partners.

Lemor Development Group has been fixing aging housing for 30 years as part of its mission to provide quality housing and restore buildings, according to Mariaelena J. Paris, of Lemor Development Group and Mount Hope Renaissance HDFC.

“I have experience getting buildings out of AEP,” Paris said. “One of the reasons we even took on this building and the other buildings is to get them out of AEP. We are fixers.” 

The time to resolve emergency complaints decreased this year, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. On average, emergency complaints were closed in 10.4 days and non-emergency complaints in 17.7 days.

Posted in - Housing Court Project Policy0 Comments

Bronx Tops Charts in Heat and Hot Water Complaints

Bronx Tops Charts in Heat and Hot Water Complaints

October begins the official eight-month “heat season,” in the city, when the city requires landlords to maintain indoor temperatures at 68 degrees during the day when it’s 55 degrees outside, and 62 degrees at night, regardless of the outside temperature.

Last year, the Bronx recorded the most housing code complaints per capita of any other borough.

In 2018, there were eight heat and water complaints filed per 1,000 residents in the Bronx. That was greater than the seven complaints per 1,000 in Manhattan; three per 1,000 in Brooklyn and Staten Island; and just two per 1,000 in Queens.

The number of heat and hot water violations has increased over the last four years citywide, based on NYC Open Data. Last year there were 27,846 total violations citywide. One-quarter of them in the Bronx, which has 17% of the population.

And along with increased HPD inspections, and a more accessible 311 call center, the number of complaints have been on a steady rise as well over the last seven years, with an 8% increase in heat and hot water complaints. 

And this year, HPD is bracing for a similar onslaught.

In the borough with the highest complaint numbers, the majority were from Community Board 7, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Bedford Park, Fordham, Jerome Park, Kingsbridge Heights, Mosholu Parkway, Norwood and University Heights.

The entrance of 1036 and 1040 Longfellow Avenue. This address has logged 50 violations this year, according to HPD, which is the highest number in the Bronx.

One small two-story brick apartment building, located at 1036 and 1040 Longfellow Avenue, on a quiet residential block in the Foxhurst neighborhood in the Bronx, has the dubious distinction of a combined total of 50 heat and hot water violations over the last year — the highest number in the Bronx.

The building with the second highest number of violations this past year was 1895 Walton Avenue with 27 violations. Unlike the Longfellow properties, Walton Avenue is enrolled in the Alternate Enforcement Program with HPD. 

The entrance of 1895 Walton Avenue. This address has logged 27 violations this year and is enrolled in the Alternate Enforcement Program, also known as the “babysitting program,” according to HPD. 

The AEP is a program landlords can be enrolled in if their building receives too many violations. Read more about AEP here. (

These buildings are a part of a rise in the number of Bronx heat and hot water violations from 2017 to 2018, based on NYC Open Data.  

Beyond heat and hot water, two residents reported an even more pressing complaint—the lack of gas in the building. 1895 Walton Avenue has received eight gas-related violations from HPD this year.

“The gas has been off since April,” said Mariaelena Paris, of Lemor Development and Mount Hope Renaissance HDFC. It was cut off by ConEdison due to problems with the gas line.

Lemor Development and NCV Capital Partners acquired 1895 Walton Avenue last December as part of a 13-building project where the companies are focused on repairing housing, according to Keith Gordon, of NCV Capital Partners.

“The bottom line is we inherited a ton of violations, so we are here to help,” Gordon said. “What we focus on is providing much needed capital to make it viable and healthy housing. NCV Capital Partner’s objective is to provide much needed capital to preserve aging stock in New York City.”

The gas in the building is cooking gas, not heat gas, according to Gordon. 

”We had to reinstall new gas lines in every unit and in the basement and that was a lengthy process,” Paris said. “We had to go to every unit and replace gas lines. The building does have a temporary boiler and we installed to provide heat and hot water to tenants.”

Currently, the landlords are waiting for the department of buildings and ConEdison to inspect the new gas lines and give the approval before they turn the gas back on, according to Paris. They hope the gas will be repaired in the next four weeks.

“We didn’t have gas for five months and it makes it difficult because it changes the food we can cook,” Raymond said, holding a bag of Taco Bell takeout food and a drink carrier. “Like now, I’m bringing back this food from the street to feed my whole family. We can’t cook on the stove.”

The living room ceiling of Umu Suleiman’s apartment at 1895 Walton Avenue. The hole has been there for several months and is beginning to expand, seemingly because of the rain damage. 

Another tenant pointed to a three-foot-long hole in her apartment’s ceiling that she said had been there for two months and is beginning to expand. Her walls and floor are also visibly damaged.

“You see the floor? The walls? The ceiling? It’s because of the rain,” said Umu Suleiman, a tenant in the Walton building. 

Additionally, Suleiman said that since the gas has been off for several months, she has taken to cooking on a two-burner electric hotplate. 

The two burner electric hotplate that Umu Suleiman, a tenant of 1895 Walton Avenue, has to cook on. The gas has been off for several months.

Lemor Development and Mount Hope Renaissance HDFC is also renovating the units in 1895 Walton Avenue and approximately 95% of units are finished. 

“It should go without saying that heat and hot water are basic necessities for any housing situation,” said Craig Waletzko, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Fair Housing Justice Center. “For families forced to live without adequate heat and hot water the immediate discomfort is horrible, and the long-term insecurity can be devastating.”

Numerous attempts to reach the owners of 1036 and 1040 Longfellow Avenue over the phone and in person were unsuccessful. 

Posted in - Housing Court Project Landlords0 Comments

ASPCA to expand free, subsidized animal care to South Bronx

An ASPCA truck parked in the South Bronx on Sept. 19 serves low income pet owners who can’t afford to pay for pet services at a veterinarian. ASPCA is expanding their services by opening a community center in the South Bronx that is expected to open Spring 2020.

At 6 a.m., the sky began to light up as Perla Medina darted around a line that had already formed at the mobile vet clinic that wouldn’t arrive for another hour at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx. It was Thursday, and the clinic’s monthly visit to the park.

Medina wore a gray hoodie and held a loose sheet of lined notebook paper and a pen. As people arrived, the 13-year-old took their name and asked how many pets they had with them.

It was Medina and her sister, Daniella Estevez’s, third time at The American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals mobile clinics and after two unsuccessful trips they wanted to make sure their two cats get a spot in line. Medina was taking names so that when the clinic arrived, the veterinarian technicians would know who’d been in line first. She didn’t want the others to wait unnecessarily if there was no hope for them to be seen.

The first time, she and her sister waited for two hours, according to Estevez, a 17-year-old high school student. The second time they happened to be number 26, out of 25 served.

“We could get there as early as we want, but we were always one behind the last person taken,” Medina said. . 

The ASPCA currently has  four ASPCA Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics located at rotating locations throughout New York City, but can only accommodate up to 25 animals per day, according to ASPCA Media and Communications.

A community veterinary center  is expected to open in the South Bronx next spring to improve access to veterinarian services for lower income people. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty is spending $45 million on three new facilities. Each will provide free care to to cat and dog owners who have proof of public assistance or public housing, and subsidized services for others.

The center will be the first of its kind in New York City, followed by others scheduled to open in Brooklyn and Manhattan in 2020 and 2021 respectively, according to an ASPCA press release

The cost of pet care is rising – with pet owners spending more than $18 billion on veterinary care last year, a billion-dollar increase over the year before, according to American Pets Project Association

The communities that use the ASPCA mobile clinics hope the new centers will be able to address some of the issues with the mobile clinics such as long wait times with the risk of not being seen. 

Waiting to be seen

While Medina and her sister were lucky on their third trip and were able to have both of their cats Oreo and Storm seen, it was not the case for everyone.

While mobile clinics arrive at their rotating locations throughout the boroughs at 7 a.m., owners are recommended to arrive in advance, according to the Bronx September ASPCA calendar. Customers of ASPCA said they regularly arrived as early as 4:30 a.m. to guarantee a spot on the list.

Medina and Estevez arrived at 5 a.m. and were the sixth people in line for the 7 a.m. clinic. 

More Animals Served

Not a morning person, Emilia Rodriguez held her cat carrier and bounced up and down, trying to stay awake. This was her fourth visit to the mobile clinic as she got her last cat Little Bit, a stray from a funeral home, fixed.

“The clinics around here charge $100-$200 and here getting pets fixed is free,” said Rodriguez, a cashier at Family Dollar. “It’s really awesome for low income people. I have nothing bad to say about this truck. I’m serious. This truck is a god send.” 

On average, people spend $1,300 per dog and $900 per cats every year, according to a study by TD Ameritrade. But, the monthly average spent on pets in New York at $157 is higher than the national average, according to a study by Opploans.

The clinics are open every Tuesday through Saturday, with at least one clinic in each borough, and with two clinics in the Bronx every Tuesday and Friday, according to the ASPCA website

The ASPCA declined to cite how many animals were served in New York City in a year, but said it was in the tens of thousands. 

Once the three community centers are open, ASPCA expects to provide an additionally 30,000 spay/neuter services every year. The centers won’t replace the clinics, but will supplement their services. 

Expanded Services

Samantha Arroyo held her small grey and white splotched cat in a pink carrier close to her. It was her second time in line at the mobile clinic. Arroyo was called in, but soon after she was sent back out again.

The clinic couldn’t fix her cat because it had pus in his mouth. She’ll have to go to another veterinarian and come back again. She had been turned away for the same reason the last time she was at there.

With the new community centers, it is possible that Arroyo could have had her cat treated and fixed at the same location, instead of visiting another vet, according to the ASPCA press release. 

Currently the clinics offer spay or neuter surgeries, vaccinations, nail trims and microchip placement, according to the ASPCA spokesperson. The community centers will expand their services, but it is unclear what additional services the clinics will offer and ASPCA declined further requests for information, including why the center opening was delayed. It was originally slated to open this fall.

Posted in Bronx Life, Community Resources, Featured, Former Featured, Front Page, Health, Southern Bronx0 Comments

A Zone of Neglect

A pile of syringes found under a tree on a sidewalk on St. Anne’s Avenue. These were a few of 1,200 syringes and identifiable needle parts found by the Bronx Ink in the area surrounding the Hub at 149th Street and 3rd Avenue on September 10.

A lifelong resident of the Bronx Marty Rogers walked his familiar route on September 10 down Third Avenue to the Hub at 149th Street, the unofficial shopping and transit heart of the South Bronx. Rogers regularly visits this area dotted with orange plastic pieces of discarded syringes, neon lights alerting to all too familiar problem for the community. 

Knowing that students from 10 surrounding schools pass by all this danger and debris every day broke his heart. 

Antonio Merced, a volunteer at Brilla Middle School at Courtlandt Avenue and 148th Street, uses his cane to bend a syringe needle while students line up behind him to enter the school on September 10. Marty Rogers, a local activist, stands behind him.

“The subliminal message is just killing our kids,” said Rogers, 64, leader of a local grassroots movement called Take Back the Hub focused on bringing attention to this issue. “It wires our kids to become an addict of some kind.” 

The message, he said, is that drug use like this is a big part of what’s inevitable for these children.

On two separate days the week of September 10, a walk through the five block area fanning out from 149th Street and Third Avenue found nearly 1,000 pieces of needles and 200 intact syringes. The area observed by The Bronx Ink, included Patterson Playground and Lincoln Medical Center. 

In this same area are a total of 10 schools, spanning elementary to high school, both public and charter schools. 

The scope of the drug crisis is nothing new to residents of Mott Haven. The neighborhood has the third highest rate of overdose deaths in the city at a rate of 49.2 deaths per 100,000 citizens, according to Epi Data Brief by New York City Health.

“The rates of overdoses in the South Bronx are exceptionally high and if the the South Bronx was its own state it would have one of the highest rates in the country,” said Michelle Nolan, senior epidemiologist for the New York City Department of Health.

This data was gathered using death certificates and information from the medical examiner’s office, which is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control standards, according to Nolan. 

What is no longer tenable to the local grassroots activists is how the city’s repeated neglect. The members believe that a lack of quality services, such as police, sanitation and healthcare, is to blame for the opioid problem and the number of discarded syringes. 

Rogers calls the area a “zone of neglect.” 

Residents can report discarded syringes to 311, according to Dina Montes, Press Secretary of the New York City Department of Sanitation. 

“The Department of Sanitation of New York investigates reports of syringes on a City public street or public sidewalk. If any are found, our Environmental Police Unit will collect them and ensure their proper, safe disposal,” said Montes in an email. “Our Environmental Police Unit found and removed 16 syringes with sharps attached in that area of East 149th Street on Tuesday, September 10.”

The committee is not interested in “demonizing” those suffering from addiction, according to Rogers. 

“They are our brothers and sisters,” he said. “They had a very sad situation because they’re addicted, but the real victim is the child that has to walk past the needles and the defecation. That is the victim.”

Roger’s collection of neighbors aren’t the only ones concerned. Antonio Merced, a volunteer at Brilla Middle School at Courtlandt Avenue and 148th Street, regularly uses his cane to bend syringe needles and gather them in a pile on the block before the students enter and leave the school.

“This is what it comes down to: parents, volunteers and guys getting paid who swept the needles up,” Rogers said. “I would challenge anyone to walk three blocks around this area and not find a cap or evidence of drug use.”

The movement plans to hold a vigil every Tuesday in The Hub, at 149th Street and Third Avenue  to bring attention to the number of improperly disposed syringes. 

“The people who join in, we have to keep reminding them, this isn’t one time,” said Francine Rogers, Marty’s wife. “We have to keep going.”

The office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is aware of the situation, according to John DeSio, director of communications.  

“Our office is aware of the situation, and have been in regular contact with agencies, the police department, local businesses, non-profits and other stakeholders in the area to develop solutions moving forward,” DeSio said in an email. 

Meanwhile, the members of the committee are waiting for the political officials to call a rally and organize to end this problem. 

“I think it’s fair to say that the community is more on top of this issue than the political officials,” said Rogers. “I’m not saying they’re not trying but they’re failing.”

Posted in Bronx Neighborhoods, Former Featured, south bronx, Southern Bronx0 Comments