After several weeks without an elevator in their six floor building, the residents of this Kew Gardens building on 118th street have gotten together to organize what they hope will be one large majority tenant group fighting for their building. The problems are nothing new for the building's more seasoned tenants, some of whom have lived there for over 40 years, as one of the two elevators (one serving each side of the building) has been out of service on a pretty normal frequency for years now. The problem is that for the period that this problem has been occurring the building has been under the management of the major New York company called Vantage Management who has in the last several years purchased a myriad of buildings throughout the city. The last owner was a single person who was beloved by the building's tenants but unfortunately passed away resulting in the sale of the building to Vantage. Since their purchase of the building a number of apartments have been renovated, some more so than others, while the majority of the apartments are occupied by tenants who have lived there for years now. The lobby was renovated, hallways painted a bright yellow and carpet laid. But the most pertinent, and granted the most expensive problems, have not been dealt with. Those problems being the elevators constantly breaking down, the heat/hot water constantly not working in the cold months, the laundry room (5 washers and driers for a 110 or so apartment building) equipment being ancient and frequently not functioning, and the list goes on. Now some may say that these are normal problems but what has this building's tenants so heated is that not only is Vantage trying to RAISE the rents of the tenants in the building who have moved into renovated apartments last year by the maximum allowed by law, but they are also trying to raise the rents on the elderly fixed income residents who have lived there for 20 to 40 years by, as reported by tenants, in some cases double what they pay now (from about $800 to $1,600), or else telling them to find a new place to live. This is not a new MO for Vantage as they have been in the news and court now for the same tactics at buildings they manage in Jackson Heights and Sunnyside and other locations. They say they are just raising rents to the legal market rate which they are allowed to do. I am no expert but even if they are technically "allowed" to do it, does that make it right? Obviously the answer is NO. In the news for other shady practices, links below, such as holding rent checks and marking customer accounts as unpaid to bring them to court for non-payment, leaving pertinent building amenities broken for long periods of time and tenant harassment to vacate old tenants, the company's public image has already been severely tarnished. Not just in the media but with the NYC Dept. of Buildings where violations and complaints are heavy. All the while the fancy contact forms and newsletters from Vantage stating their community responsibility and availability come widely unappreciated as the Vantage contact information given rarely yields a human representative, and when it does, rarely yields results or answers.
After two weeks with no elevator Vantage placed signs throughout the building stating that the elevator will take an astounding 3-4 months to fix and in the meantime, for the many in the building that cannot use the stairs due to physical inability, there will be a porter from 4 - 8 pm to help get up and down he stairs and to help carry items back and forth, as well as a lighted walkway built on the roof so tenants may walk across to the other elevator. The porter never came. The walkway was erected, at a cost of almost $5,000 as stated by one of the builders, and then within days torn down (just last evening when the tenants at 118th street all met to form their tenant group.) One tenant reportedly called the elevator company and was told that Vantage is waiting for their insurance to cover the charges before they will repair/replace?? the elevator.
There have been other tenant groups formed and apparently, like others have in the past year, they are getting their day in court very shortly. Hopefully for the tenants on 118th street the city will come to the rescue and enforce building code laws and moral and professional standards. It is just too bad that the busy hard working tenants of all of these buildings have to take their personal time to do research, form tenant groups, get lawyers, talk to their city council representatives and make a big deal all in order to simply be treated how they are supposed to be. Maybe a good lesson, apparently only in the courtroom for Vantage, on the ethic of reciprocity is just what the doctor ordered.