Just a little followup to Greg's post below, about HPD's promise for extensive inspections and emergency repairs on the Milbank properties, a portfolio of crumbling Bronx apartments that went into foreclosure in 2009.
As Greg said, HPD Commissioner Rafael Cestero and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today that the city will more aggressively address Milbank's plight by making thorough inspections, issuing violations and starting repairs on the most health-threatening problems, like apartments with lead paint in them.
Cestero, who took a tour of three of the buildings this week with tenant leaders and organizers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, said the conditions are some of the worst he's ever seen.
"I have to say, in my 21 years working in the affordable housing industry in this great city, I have never been more shocked, angered and frustrated," he told reporters on a conference call this morning.
HPD normally sends out inspectors to look at an apartment when someone lodges a housing complaint with 311. But officials said today that taking this "proactive" approach with Milbank--going in to make an inspection in an apartment even if no one has complained about it yet--will make the difference in turning the buildings around.
"That should send a message to any potential buyer," Quinn said. "HPD is going to be on the owner 24/7."
The potential buyer is Chestnut Holdings, a Riverdale-based company that's been in talks with LNR Property Corp, the servicer to Milbank's $35 million loan on the buildings. Housing advocates warned that a mortgage that high, combined with an expensive repair to-do list, is too much debt for a new owner to handle.
City officials have met with LNR but say the Florida-based company has "no clear sense of how much they need to put in to make these buildings livable," according to Quinn. The company has proposed spending about $5 to $7 million on repairs, she said, which is nothing close to the $24 million that her own City Council assessment says it will cost.
Milbank tenants have long complained about leaking ceilings, rotting floors, mold infestations and permanently broken elevators.
"We shouldn't have to live like this," Sergio Cuevas, of 2785 Sedgwick Ave., told the Bronx News Network last month. "I don't invite anyone over to my home."
At the end of September, a Bronx Supreme Court judge gave LNR 30 days to make $2.5 million in repairs on the properties, though tenant advocates say they haven yet to see a penny of that. LNR is expected to appeal the judge's order.