Residents Frustrated With HPD’s Nine-Year Renovation Delay In Harlem

March 20, 2017

The NY Post reports that the city has spent more than $1 million subsidizing the rents of a dozen tenants it forced from a century-old Manhattan apartment building it promised to renovate in 2008.

But after nine years of bureaucratic bungling, the work on the building hasn’t even begun.

Former residents of the city-owned building at 615 W. 150th St. in Harlem were promised by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development that the renovations would only take two years.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Juan Erazo, 65. “They lied.”

Under a 1996 Tenant Interim Lease agreement with the city, the tenants were supposed to be able to buy their units for $250 once renovations were completed. The program, which dates back decades, was designed to keep city-owned buildings occupied.

But today, in the midst of what Mayor de Blasio calls an affordable housing crisis, the 12 evacuated units in the now-booming neighborhood are still empty.

“They don’t want us to be the owners of our apartments,” said Erazo, who was moved four blocks away to Convent Ave. “They want to sell the apartments.”

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Erazo and tenants in 11 other units were moved into smaller apartments, their possessions put away into storage — and held hostage there ever since.

Instead of being homeowners at a now-prime Manhattan property, the residents say they’re stranded in a building where they pay the same for less space, and the city covers the difference between their old and new rents.

The city claims it still intends to offer an ownership option but that it will cost residents $2,500 per unit and would fall under the Affordable Neighborhood Cooperative Program, which relies on private financing.

A city official blamed the budgetary and market constraints of TIL for the delay, which has cost the city at least $1.1 million in rent subsidies — and counting. And that doesn’t include moving and storage costs.

Rent for Luisa Rodriguez’ Convent Ave. apartment is $1,522 a month. But she continues to pay the $442 she did in 2008 on West 150th Street, with the city picking up the tab for the $1,080 remainder, records show.

Of the at least 12 people who left the property and are now living at Convent Ave. or other locations, all have rents of more than $1,000 a month, but some actually pay under $200.

The city’s wasteful ways bother Rodriguez but her main gripes are personal.

The 75-year-old retired teacher longs for the days at West 150th Street, when she could ride the elevator, instead of walking up to her fourth-floor apartment in the five-story walkup on Convent.

She also misses old family photos and furniture now stuck in storage.

She said HPD won’t tell her where her stuff is or grant her access to it, unless she agrees to remove it all – an impossible task.

“I just want to go back to my building and get my things,” Rodriguez said.

A city official said Thursday that “to ensure sustainability,” its storage service “only allows for move in and move out capabilities.”

But HPD spokeswoman Juliet Pierre-Antoine said there’s nothing preventing residents from accessing their storage property while the agency moves ahead with the renovations.

“We understand tenants have been waiting a long time, and are doing everything possible to speed up the pipeline through new programs and financing,” she said.

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