Dozens of tenants and housing rights advocates stood in front of City Hall Tuesday morning to pressure the city into dealing with what they call predatory building owners.
Almost a year ago, a portfolio of more than 50 buildings operated by Colonial Management went into foreclosure.Tenants from the 1,537 rent-regulated and federally subsidized units across Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx asked members of the City Council to intervene on their behalf and preserve their homes as affordable housing.
New Yorkers living in the portfolio of apartments, also known as the Three Borough Pool, filed more than 2,700 housing violations against the buildings and the private equity joint venture that purchased the properties in 2007.
Normandy Real Estate, Vantage Properties, Westbrook Partners and David Kramer set the venture up and defaulted on the $133 million loan in 2010. The buildings were foreclosed on in 2011.
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Bronx resident Debra Cooper recounted how her unit in 711 Fairmount Place has gone without heat for months, and how her family stays inside their home after 7:30 p.m. in fear of drug dealers who roam the hallways.
"We're scared to come out," Cooper said. "We're infested with mice, rats, roaches. We have incredible water leaks in the building. I live on the third floor — when it rains, it's raining in my kitchen. I need an umbrella … I want justice."
Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres bemoaned the tactics of the portfolio's owners. He suggested that the lender, LNR Partners, reject the owners' request for refinancing and sell the pool to a preservation owner.
"The name might sound academic, but the effects of predatory equity on the neighborhoods we represent are deeply felt and destructive," Torres said at City Hall's steps about the neglectful landlords. "Less affordability for the tenants means more profitability for predatory owners."
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria