City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) put himself into the center of a bitter College Point housing dispute last week, demanding the landlord and manager at Schleicher’s Court restore gas service to their tenants after more than a year.
Avella’s call is just the latest chapter in a seemingly endless squabble between the tenants and the landlord at the College Point home. The more than a dozen tenants of the 19th century mansion, at 11-41 123rd St., have been embroiled in an at times fiery fight with Eva Rohan, the owner, since July 2008. The contentious situation left tenants of the building homeless for nearly eight months and without basic services, such as gas for more than a year.
“We just want to live like normal human beings,” said Rita Douglas, who has an apartment on the first floor. “We don’t want anything luxurious.”
On Friday, Avella called on Rohan to adhere to a court order to give inspectors from the city Department of Housing access to the home so gas service can be restored to the building. Tenants said Housing inspectors arrived at the house July 15 after a June court-order mandated the repairs be made, but Robert Cuniffe, a licensed contractor who said he expects to purchase the house in the coming days, would not let them into the building.
“This guy should go to jail,” Avella said. “Who the hell is he to deny accessi”
A civil court judge mandated extensive electrical and plumbing work be completed at the building after city Department of Buildings inspectors issued a vacate order on the building, calling its wiring system antiquated and dangerous. The tenants were forced to live elsewhere for nearly eight months before being allowed back into their apartments in February following extensive legal wrangling.
Both Rohan and Cuniffe said the majority of the court-ordered work has been completed, but they are now waiting on Con Edison to conduct an inspection and instruct them further.
“Most of the repairs have been completed, with the exception of the gas. It does take time, though,” Cuniffe said. “They said we are violating a court order, but that’s completely untrue. We have hired a certified plumber to complete the work. There is the case number, there is the reference number, but right now we’re waiting for Con Edison to come in and tell us the size of the pipe that needs to go in to connect to the street. It’s out of our hands now.”
Rohan said she is also planning to file a lawsuit against the tenants, who have not paid rent for the last year. The tenants, however, said they have received state authorization to pay $1 in rent until all services are restored to the building.
“This is what the middle class is coming to in this city,” said tenant Kalvis Macs. “We’re second-class citizens.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community News Group
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