VIDEO: Standing in her living room, Vanessa Santiago describes conditions inside her apartment
Last night, Creston Avenue resident Vanessa Santiago fought back tears as she spoke to reporters and local politicians about the litany of problems inside her basement apartment.
When it rains, she said, water seeps under her front door and into the living room, meaning she can't have furniture. There are holes in the walls and ceilings, she continued, and mice, cockroaches and other bugs are a common sight for her, her husband, and her five kids. Her toilet doesn't work properly, neither do the faucets in the bathroom sink, and most of the electrical sockets in the two-bedroom apartment are broken. The list goes on.
"My kids cannot keep living like this," Santiago sobbed.
Making matters worse, her apartment - and the 32 other units in the building - have been without cooking gas since June.
Tenants recently began meeting with organizers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. Last night, tenants and organizers hung banners ("SAVE OUR HOMES" "OUR CHILDREN ARE SICK" "HPD WHERE R U?) from the fire escapes, and held a press conference to bring attention to their plight.
Last night's press conference. The landlord had the banners torn down this morning, tenants activists said. (Photo by Alma Watkins)
The building, at 2229 Creston Ave. in South Fordham, has 270 housing violations, an exorbitant number for its size.
Tenants say the landlord, Treetop Management, a real estate company in New Jersey which uses the name 2229 Creston Partners LLC for the Creston building, has consistently failed to maintain the apartments, and that HPD is also at fault. According to NY1, HPD recently made $30,000 worth of emergency repairs - but you wouldn't know it.
Maria Ramos, a first floor tenant, has a huge hole in her kitchen ceiling, after workmen visited in June to inspect the apartment's gas fixtures. Problem is, they never returned to repair it, and now rats are sneaking in. In her living room a plastic tub collects murky water dripping from another hole in the ceiling, where a lightbulb would normally be. In her bathroom the toilet no longer flushes.
"We're human beings, not animals," Ramos said.
After touring several apartments, Assemblyman Nelson Castro described the conditions as "really horrible." The building "needs to be repaired ASAP," he said.
Castro said his office has reached out to HPD and has tried, without success, to contact the landlord. (We, also, were unable to immediately reach the landlord.)
As they continue to wait for repairs, tenants are considering their next steps. If help doesn't come soon, Santiago said, she and her family are heading to a homeless shelter.
Other tenants are considering a rent strike, a tenant organizer said.
VIDEO: Jose Santiago, Vanessa's husband, in the family's bathroom