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Kew Gdns. Vantage tenants to join union

Residents of a Kew Gardens apartment building owned by Vantage Properties are planning to join a tenants union representing more than 1,300 Queens residents living in Vantage buildings who accuse their landlord of ignoring complaints about maintenance.

About 40 residents from the Kew Gardens building, at 83-30 118th St., met with a staff attorney, Joshua Butnick, from the Catholic Migration Office last Thursday to discuss joining the Queens Vantage Tenants Council. QVTC Vice President Shirhad Meah, a Jackson Heights resident, also attended the gathering to speak with residents about the union.

Kew Gardens tenants said they contacted the Sunnyside-based Catholic Migration Office after Vantage announced one of the building’s two elevators would not be fixed for at least two months, leaving elderly and disabled residents essentially stranded in their apartments because they cannot use the stairs.

Vantage spokesman Davidson Goldin said the company is working quickly to fix the damaged elevator and plans to have the elevator fixed by next week.

“Vandalism destroyed the wires between the circuitry board and the elevator control system,” Goldin said. “…Initial estimates for the custom repair were many months, but Vantage pushed very hard to make this custom repair as quickly as possible, and the elevator will be operable next week.

“The QVTC has a presence in 60 of the 80 Vantage buildings in Queens,” Butnick told the Kew Gardens tenants. “What you’re experiencing is being experienced all across the Vantage buildings.”

Butnick, who is part of the Catholic Migration Office’s Immigration Tenant Advocacy Project, told residents that “having all the tenants together is probably the best thing we can do.”

The union, Butnick said, enabled residents in late 2008 to “bombard Vantage with rent reduction applications.” Individuals in about 40 buildings filed rent reduction applications due to what they said was poor maintenance, and Butnick said Vantage “sent in teams of people to make repairs” following the filing of the applications.

Second-floor resident Kourosh Nassimian, who helped to organize last Thursday’s meeting, said he expects many of the tenants to join QVTC. While some residents expressed concern that Vantage would know who was part of the union and retaliate against those individuals, Meah said QVTC would not release individual names and instead Vantage would only know that a specific building had joined the union.Residents say they hope joining the union will help them address issues that they say have gone unresolved with Vantage.

Nektaliva Svetlana said she received a notice that after paying the same rent for 15 years, Vantage waas raising her rent by $650. She said her prior payments of $1,120 had been affordable, but an increase of $650 would prove to be a crippling blow to the elderly woman.

Svetlana does not live in a rent-stabilized unit, and Vantage has said many of their tenants in market apartments had paid far below the market rate for years.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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