Residents of 89-04/14 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights gathered outside their apartment complex on February 1, 2024, calling on their landlord to fulfill promises made months ago, to protect their safety, finally address numerous maintenance issues and stop tenant harassment.
Longtime tenants in the rent stabilized buildings have endured substandard living conditions for decades. The tenant association, with assistance from Communities Resist, filed lawsuits a year ago to compel the landlord to make repairs, install an accessibility ramp and stop a relentless campaign of harassment targeting building residents. In October, the landlord agreed to a court order to make the repairs by the end of the calendar year, but three months later, they are continuing to employ delay tactics and ignore their tenants.
The lawsuits named DHK Property Three LLC, Michael Young Realty Inc., Michael Young individually, David Krumholz and Gloria Young.
“For the last twenty years we have been demanding from our landlord to take care and do the repairs needed in the apartments and common areas, to no avail,” said tenant leader Maria del Carmen Cruz “It was like going against a cement wall.”
“For me personally to have my apartment repaired,” del Carmen Cruz explained, “it took many calls to the landlord and superintendent, about forty or more calls to 311 and, in conjunction with the lawyer, finally it was done. It took them three months and I had to live with the dust and the inconvenience of all the construction going on, construction that if repairs were done in time would have not been so big and so bad. I suffer from asthma and I needed medical assistance twice during this period of repairs.”
The horrendous living conditions at 89-04/14 34th Avenue include recurring leaks and mold, cockroach and mice infestations, ceilings that have caved in and patchwork and inadequate repairs. Walls and ceilings are buckling and crackling in many areas. There are over 250 code violations, malfunctioning locks on exterior doors, and hazardous conditions which have resulted in building fires. The only way to reach the current accessibility ramp is through the basement and people in wheelchairs are forced to navigate the back of the building where cars block the entrance.
“Landlords throughout New York City frequently treat tenants and their buildings as cash cows, deferring necessary maintenance and making cheap temporary repairs while threatening their tenants with eviction for complaining to management and 311,” said Jack Hsia, law graduate and Skadden Fellow at Communities Resist.
“The decades of disinvestment have led to the building’s deterioration,” Hsia added, “with the tenants bearing the consequences. The tenants who began these legal actions are not only fighting for their homes, but their neighbors, children, and grandchildren who also live in the building. This is a tenant association that is cross cultural and intergenerational and whose goal is to compel their landlord to see beyond their bottom line and make the necessary repairs. We call on the city to stand up for tenants’ rights and help the tenants of 89-04/14 34th Avenue, who have been suffering too much and for far too long.”
The tenant association is making the following demands of their landlord: complete all individual apartment repairs without any further delay, finish all building-wide repairs, clear all code violations, act immediately to improve building security and install accessibility ramps in the front of the building, as required by law.
“No residents should be subjected to dangerous and inhumane living conditions like the ones that have existed for far too long at 89-04/14 34th Avenue,: said Inaki Herrera, tenant organizer at Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE). “We are committed to working with the tenant association to organize and stand up for their rights. As New York City’s housing crisis worsens, we must protect every single rent regulated apartment. That’s why we’re here today.”
“Our neighbors at 89-04 and 89-14 34th Avenue should not have to fight tooth and nail to have dignified housing. Their landlord, DHK Property Three LLC/Michael Lee Realty Inc., must comply with court orders to make necessary repairs and ensure these tenants have a safe and warm place to lay their heads at night. Retaliation against tenants who are advocating for themselves is not only cruel, but illegal. Standing alongside the Tenant’s Association, Communities Resist, and Asian Americans for Equality, we will hold the landlord accountable.” said Council Member Shekar Krishnan, District 25.
“No tenant should have to endure rat infestations, mold, leaky roofs, and the ongoing neglect that our neighbors are experiencing,” said Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas. “My constituents have a right to dignified and stable housing, and that is why I’m joining tenant leaders, Asian Americans for Equality, and Communities Resist to demand that the landlord do their job, comply with the court, and address these unsafe and inhumane living conditions. Housing is a human right,”
“Tenants everywhere deserve acceptable and safe living conditions,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens). “These include crucial necessities such as heat, hot water and needed repairs. All New Yorkers are entitled to these basic and essential items.”
Communities Resist is a community-based legal services and advocacy organization established and led by people of color to empower, educate and represent low-income communities and community coalitions preventing gentrification and displacement. Understanding that housing is a human right, the fight for tenants’ rights and housing justice must advance racial, gender, and economic justice.
Asian Americans for Equality is a 50-year-old community development organization dedicated to advancing racial, social and economic justice. Since its founding in 1974, AAFE has been committed to protecting tenant rights. The organization is part of Stabilizing NYC, a coalition devoted to building tenant power across the city.