- See more at: http://blogtimenow.com/blogging/automatically-redirect-blogger-blog-another-blog-website/#sthash.Q6qPkwFC.dpuf "Hallelujah!" Tenants at Embattled Sedgwick Building Have Hot Water for First Time in 3 Months | Bronx News Networkbronx

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Hallelujah!" Tenants at Embattled Sedgwick Building Have Hot Water for First Time in 3 Months

Scenes from inside and outside of 2285 Sedgwick on Tuesday evening, where tenants were without hot water, gas and heat for more than 3 months.
[All photos by Adi Talwar]

“Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, God is good,” exclaimed Caroline Loja over the phone just minutes ago as she happily reported that hot water had returned to her all but abandoned building on Sedgwick Avenue.

After three months of no heat, hot water, cooking gas or answers, Lojas and other tenants at their deteriorating apartment building in University Heights recently took matters into their own hands. They banded together, attracted attention to their plight and forced the city to intervene on their behalf.

But the situation, which exploded onto the media landscape as the week progressed (we went there on Tuesday, but are just now getting this up online), serves as an extreme example of what can happen to a good building run by a bad landlord in a struggling economy.

Before Juan Romero took over as owner of 2285 Sedgwick, a six-story, 54-unit complex just south of Fordham Road, the building was a shining star in nice neighborhood. While the block remains stable – it includes several single-family homes decorated for Halloween right now – 2285 Sedgwick has steadily deteriorated.

For years, residents say Romero has skimped on maintenance efforts and patched together repair work using unlicensed workers (mostly his super did everything, residents say).

Then, in early July, a fire ripped through a first floor apartment that was being used as a yoga studio. Thanks to on-the-spot firefighters, the blaze was contained, but the gas lines were damaged, prompting Con Edison to shut off the building’s gas supply until repairs were made.

The building has lacked hot water, gas and heat ever since.

Soon after the fire took place, Romero, who is in the final stages of foreclosure proceedings after defaulting on the building’s mortgage payments, made at least one attempt to repair the gas lines, but again used unlicensed workers who didn’t do a proper job. This was followed by a vicious cycle of tenant 311 complaints, followed by the courts ordering Romero to do the work and him promising to do so and then not doing it.

Finally, last weekend, tenants began organizing themselves and decided to do something. They draped big poster boards and sheets out of their windows and from their fire escapes calling for help. The whole building was a like sinking ship throwing out desperate distress calls. “Help!”

On Sunday, dozens of tenants marched to a rally held by the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition at St. Nicholas Tolentine Church, just a few block away on Fordham Road. There they received some badly-needed attention from the media (first by News 12, which had also done a story on the building during the summer, a week after the fire.) and local politicians. Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Assemblyman Nelson Castro and State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. all stopped to offer their help.

Finally, on Thursday HPD sent out licensed workers to make all the appropriate repairs. Eariler today, both the Buildings Department and Con Edison gave the repairs the green light and just minutes ago, Loja was able to launch into her own personal Hallelujah chorus.

[There’s a lot more to this story and you can read all about it in the next Norwood News online and on streets next Thursday.]


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