750 Grand Concourse
by Sarah Blaskey and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul
The Bronx Ink has profiled buildings owned by Ved Parkash, who was until recently rated the worst landlord in New York by the Public Advocate’s office. The profiles form part of a wider investigation into housing conditions and tenant harassment in the Bronx. Find other buildings using the panel to the right.
Carrying her baby boy close to her chest, Anabel Díaz stepped carefully through about two inches of water covering the hallway floor in her two-bedroom apartment at 750 Grand Concourse.
The 22-year-old mother opened the door to reveal a flooded bathroom, where she said that gushes of water pour twice daily through a hole in the ceiling into a child-sized tub, which then overflows onto the floor.
Díaz said the bathroom and hallway had been flooded for two months and that the building’s superintendent continued to put off repairs. Her four-year-old daughter had to wear extra shoes just to go to the bathroom. The Bronx Ink recorded a video of the leak on September 10. Since that date, the leak and hole in the ceiling have been fixed, although Díaz said she is skeptical that the repairs will last.
Díaz has lived with her two young children and their father at this six-story building near the corner of 156th Street and the Grand Concourse since February. The 99-unit building was constructed in the 1930s, and bought by Ved Parkash in 1988.
The famed Art Deco architect Jacob Felson designed the building in 1937; its lobby decorated with painted palm trees hints at its former elegance. Designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Oct. 25, 2011 as part of the Grand Concourse Historic District, the building is now considered one of the worst residential buildings in the Bronx.
The building’s rent roll ranges from $900 to $1,700, according to a collection of tenants’ leases. The building currently has 38 open violations with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The current and past complaints over the past three decades include moderate to severe water leaks, mold, gas leaks that in some cases caused fires, lack of hot water, no heating in the winter, months with no gas for stoves, rodent infestations, and elevator and other maintenance issues. Thirty-eight tenants have partnered with the non-profit Community Action for Safe Apartments, known informally as CASA, to sue Parkash for failing to fix the building code violations. Tenants say that since the lawsuit against Parkash began in April 2016, many of their demanded repairs have been made, though not always to a satisfactory standard.
“The repairs they do is a lot of patching,” said Giovanni Castillo, who lives on the second floor. “No es reparar,” he said, stressing in Spanish that they were not lasting repairs. Some tenants complained that the common way the building staff deals with mold and leaks is to simply paint over the offending area.
The building is leaning significantly to one side, making it look—if standing from across the street—lopsided to the left, as if it were sinking. Hundreds of small cracks in the foundation can be seen from the outside. The rear court yard appears to sag under its own weight. City records show that last March, the floor of the basement laundry room collapsed, adding to the concerns about the structure as a whole. The 200-square-foot crater that was formed by the collapse caused a large washing machine to crash to the floor one story below. The room was empty at the time and no one was injured.
Castillo was doing his laundry that chilly Wednesday afternoon last spring. Castillo said the floor started to shake a little stronger than it usually does when the washing machine spun. His small black dog became nervous, so Castillo decided to take his pet home before returning for his laundry. When he attempted to return to the basement, he said several floors of the building were inundated with dust clouds. Another tenant told him the floor of the laundry room had collapsed.
“It was just full of smoke. It seemed like fire but it wasn’t fire; it didn’t smell like fire. It was cement. You know, like dust,” Castillo said. He credits his dog with saving his life.
As of Sept. 25, the laundry room still had a “Vacate” notice on the door from the Department of Buildings that read: “The Department of Buildings has determined that conditions in this premises are imminently perilous to life.”
The deep void in the floor extends just a few inches beyond the door and allows a glimpse of the B-level below. The collapsed laundry room is located just to the left of Díaz’s apartment, though she has no vacate notice.
“You can owe that man two dollars and he’ll take you to court,” said Tracey Nelson, who has lived in 750 Grand Concourse for 19 years. The wooden steps in her apartment have visible dents, which she claims are rat bites.
Nelson and other tenants also complain that the building superintendent, Juan Almanjar, is unresponsive to their calls and sometimes dismissive, rude, or even threatening.
Almanjar responded to these claims saying tenants fail to hold their end of the bargain, such as taking out their trash. When asked about threatening tenants, he said he had no comment and threatened to call the police if any more questions were asked.