825 Gerard Avenue
by Majlie de Puy Kamp
Additional reporting by Shibani Gokhale
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.
“There used to be a courtyard full of plants here,” said Marta Melandez, 65, pointing to the concrete covered entrance of 825 Gerard Avenue. “Green vines decorated the walls all the way up to the first floor windows.” For the 43 years Melandez has lived in the building on Gerard Avenue and East 157th Street, she has seen its condition worsen over time. For 27 of those years, the building has been owned by landlord Ved Parkash.
Even though there are relatively few violations at 825 Gerard compared to some of Parkash’s other properties, it takes a lot of effort and patience to get them repaired.
The previous landlord, Fred Stillman, owned the building in the 1970s. Tenants like Robert Sosa, 54, who has lived in the building since 1971, remember that Stillman visited every few weeks to ask if anything needed fixing. The only time tenants say they hear from Parkash is when they’re behind on rent, or being served with eviction notices.
“Parkash is very prompt with eviction notices,” said Sosa. “But not so prompt with the repairs.”
Cracks in the walls and ceiling, leakages and malfunctioning elevators are the main issues tenants of 825 Gerard face. “The elevators break down all the time, mostly on weekends, and they smell of urine,” said Melandez. She explained that there are many elderly and disabled people on higher floors who rely on working elevators to get in and out of their apartments.
Complaints are often met with superficial repairs, allowing problems to reoccur time and time again. Cracks in the ceiling would be painted over, covering, but not fixing, the problem. “It’s like putting a bandage on a deep wound,” said Mike Grant, who has lived in the building for 43 years.
After several attempts at contact, the superintendent at 825 Gerard declined to comment on the complaints. Failure to respond to complaints and violations in a timely manner has resulted in a lawsuit being filed against Parkash by the New York Housing Preservation and Development organization.
Several tenants, including Sosa, started tending to the required repairs in their apartments themselves to avoid the hassle of bugging management.
“It’s not necessarily that he won’t make the repairs,” said Sosa, referring to the superintendent. “But trying to find a time that works for all parties is very difficult.” Sosa, like many other tenants, feels uncomfortable leaving his front door keys with the superintendent or contractors, and getting off work to stay home when repairs are being made is often not an option. Over the years, Sosa has replaced the toilet and kitchen sink himself.
“I need a new countertop,” said Elizabeth Manuel, 63, “but I’ll have my own repairs done, I don’t bother with the super.”
Parkash’s son, Anurag Parkash, represents his father in the lawsuits filed by and against him in housing court. “If [the tenants] give us access, we can do the repairs,” he told a tenant representative.
Grant remembers being treated gruffly when he called Parkash’s office once to discuss a leak. But he also noted that tenants need to take better care of the building if they want to be taken seriously. “We can’t blame everything on Parkash,” he said. “People leave their garbage in the hallways. It attracts rodents and causes horrible smells. It takes two minutes to take your garbage down to the basement but people are just too lazy.”
Years ago, Grant put up a sign in the lobby which said, “Take pride in where you reside.” He believed it helped. “But we had a tenant community then” said Melandez. That is different now, with tenants rotating in and out of the building.
In the meantime, violations at 825 Gerard keep piling up. “Maybe he will fix them eventually,” said Sosa, “but you have to be very patient.”