Distressed residents of Longwood’s 900 Fox St. apartment building attended Community Board 2’s Housing and Land Use committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their continued concerns with the building’s management and the way they handled the aftermath of the September fire that consumed 20 apartments.
This isn’t the first time that Fairstead residents have come before Board 2 to complain about the company. In October, they accused the management company of neglect that led to the fire. Fairstead representatives denied these claims.
At this week’s meeting, resident Bernadette Robles said that she was shuffled from apartment to apartment and placed in unlivable accommodations after being displaced from her apartment at 900 Fox St. When these conditions were brought to the attention of Fairstead, they secured her a hotel stay, but Robles said she was not told the details until a day after the stay was supposed to have begun. The hotel had already canceled the reservation.
“There was no communication,” she said with a trembling voice. “[The property manager] never gave me a hotel. He never gave me a confirmation number. He knew the situation I was in, and then he waited until the last minute to call me and tell me, ‘I’m sorry we can’t do anything for you.’”
Out of the 20 apartments burned in the fire, seven were not as severely damaged and the tenants are beginning to move back in. Residents of the other 13 apartments, like Robles, were expected to be allowed back by Dec. 11.
Katelyn Andrews, one of the two Fairstead representatives at the meeting, told Robles, “This is heartbreaking. I wish this had not occurred the way it happened.”
Fairstead’s other representative, Rodney Rodriguez, said the hotel was to blame for canceling the reservation. “I have to find out if we can get the hotel to honor something,” he said, “because we’re still out $2,000.”
That statement was met with commotion from the crowd.
Housing and Land Use committee members urged Fairhead representatives to urgently address Robles’s housing needs, even if they would be unable to recoup the non-refundable $2,000 hotel fee from the first reservation.
Residents of 900 Fox St. who were able to stay in their apartments after the fire had gripes of their own. Tenant Filomena Valle Duprey talked about living without hot water, heat or gas. The Fairstead representatives said the company has restored heat and hot water, but residents say they have gone without gas since repairs began.
Duprey also said that the $50 taken off of tenants’ rents as compensation has not been enough to account for the elevated food costs incurred without a functioning kitchen.
After presenting and taking questions, the two Fairstead management representatives stepped into the hallway to speak directly with 900 Fox St. residents and attempt to find a new hotel room for Robles.
A Fairstead spokesperson told the Hunts Point Express, “We reached an agreement with the resident to secure temporary housing for her until she can return to her apartment.”
“Residents were offered the opportunity to relocate to temporary solutions prior to heat and hot water being restored on October 18th,” one company representative said. “These services remain fully functional at present. Cooking gas continues to be disrupted, which the management company has sought to address by providing all impacted units with alternative cooking methods until service is restored.”
In other business:
- This was Revered John Uko Udon’s first meeting as chairperson of CB2’s Housing and Land Use Committee.
- Committee members voted unanimously to send a letter of support to the New York Housing Preservation and Development agency regarding Phase 2 of the STAGG Whitlock Street developments, and the matter will move to the full board meeting for vote. Phase 2 will bring 251 affordable housing units to the neighborhood, including 13 three-bedroom units, which were added upon pressure from the committee. STAGG Representative Kathleen Bradshaw said that, with the letter of support, they hope to begin construction on Phase 2 in December 2024. Phase 1 has begun construction of the initial 261 units and is projected to be fully completed by June 2026. The buildings will reside on the currently vacant lot on Whitlock Avenue between Aldus Street and 165th Street.
- Tenants at 934 Barreto St. have come into conflict with their superintendent. Am attendee at the committee meeting said he had heard that a child had been poisoned due to the super leaving out rat poison for cats. Committee member Paul Martinez said he had heard from local store owners about rat poison being used to poison outdoor cats in the area.