Five families at 299 Troutman Street sued the building’s owners, Xing Liang Shen and Irene Zhang, with the help of attorneys from Mobilization for Justice, an organization that offers free legal assistance to low-income New Yorkers.
According to Ariana Marmora, a senior staff attorney with the group, they have filed an Article 7A proceeding, which asks a housing court to appointment an administrator to run the building in place of the owner.
If granted, the administrator would take the rent rolls, manage the building and take liens out against the landlord to make necessary repairs.
“It’s one of the statutes on the books that we use in the most severe cases,” Marmora said. “It effectively takes away the ability of the landlord to have a management role in the building.”
The first court date was on July 11. According to reports, the case was adjourned until next month.
On July 10, tenants at 299 Troutman Street rallied with Assemblywoman Maritza Davila, attorneys from Mobilization for Justice, supporters from Make the Road New York and a representative from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
According to the attorneys, only four out of eight units in the four-story building are currently occupied because the top two floors were burned in fire dating back to 2008.
Patrick Tyrrell, an attorney with Mobilization for Justice, said the building has more than 100 violations alone. But the owners have ignored those violations for years.
Maria and Hector Cordero, who live on the first floor, said they have been dealing with a “horrible leak” for several months. Other problems include debris, trip hazards and peeling paint on the walls.
In 2014, a judge ordered the landlords to repair all outstanding violations, but to no avail.
“Fast forward to 2019, no repairs have been done,” Davila said. “Eleven years, they’ve been living with four apartments on top, boarded up, that have been burnt down.”
Marmora said that since the state government passed a series of new rent laws this year, landlords have said they will not repair their buildings anymore.
Her message for those landlords, including the owners of 299 Troutman Street, was clear.
“If they’re going to let their buildings fall into disrepair, they can see us in court,” she said. “These tenants have waited too long for the repairs and respect that they deserve.”
“You can no longer hold our tenants hostage,” Davila added. “We are taking our housing stock back.”