William Armstead lives at the mercy of his Prospect Heights property manager.
While the location is perfect and the rent is lower than most New Yorkers could ever dream of, the conditions inside his apartment, on Eastern Parkway near the Brooklyn Museum, are inhumane at worst, inconvenient at best.
Exposed wires hang in the hallway. Leaks from an upstairs apartment, constant during winter, forced Armstead to rearrange his living room into cramped piles of belongings, including the keyboard and equipment he uses to play jazz music.
“I question myself sometimes: why am I still here? Why am I going through this? Should I stay, should I go?” Armstead said. “But I feel stuck, being on a fixed income.”
With the Rent Guideline Board hearings starting this month, some housing advocates are pushing for a rent freeze. Last year, the RGB passed the lowest increase since the board was created in 1969, by 1 percent for one year leases and 2.75 percent for two-year leases, and Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a freeze prior to the vote.
For Armstead the conditions in his apartment have only become worse over the past nine months, especially the water damage.
“What they’re trying to do is get me out so they can decontrol this apartment and get market value,” Armstead said. “That’s why I don’t get any services, and that’s why I’m angry. It wasn’t like this 15 or 20 years ago.”
Armstead first moved to 125 Eastern Parkway 28 years ago this June. When his aunt passed away, he legally assumed ownership. He said he's one of the last few renters left in the co-op building.
Because Armstead is living with a disability, a rent hike wouldn’t increase his $212 a month rent, because the increases are paid through a federal program. But he would benefit from a rent rollback, which his advocate, Farriangie Dorce from the Pratt Area Community Council, said could lower his payments even more.
Armstead, who said at one point his landlords wouldn’t accept his rent payments, said he’s been neglected for years. He started working with Dorce last fall, and she said the company has started making “bandaid repairs” since she stepped in.
“This isn’t too bad, at least he has running water and he always has heat,” said Dorce, adding the problem appeared to be Armstead was reporting damage to his super, who was not relaying the message to the higher-ups.
Armstead, who expects to start working soon as a customer service representative, said he’s ready to put years of housing neglect behind him.
“I want to stay here, I want a nice place that’s liveable, so I can move on with my life,” Armstead said.