Bushwick tenants share how they were rescued from negligent landlords

Some Bushwick tenants at the Troutman Street building are seeing an end to years of fighting their landlord.

Katelynn Ulrich

Feb 15, 2024, 12:44 PM

Updated 147 days ago

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Hector Cordero has lived on Troutman Street for 30 years. ​When he moved into his apartment he put in sweat and money to renovate. He says he spent $10,000. Over the years his landlord simply stopped making repairs for things like leaks and more. 
In 2009 a building fire left the upper-level apartments decimated and under vacate orders. The landlord ensured the apartments were empty and no repairs were made for decades. 
In 2019 Cordero and his neighbors began organizing. They reached out to lawmakers and eventually connected with Mobilization for Justice. As a team, they pursued a 7A case. 
"We've been fighting. It's very hard. We get the right people. The people who help us," said Cordero. 
The 7A program has a judge appoint an 'administrator' to oversee a building that's had a longstanding history of neglected safety issues and poor living conditions. That administrator hires contractors to make renovations and collects rents to be used for tenants' essential needs. A 7A needs the City to oversee the administrator and little did Cordero and his team know, that the city's Housing Preservation and Development was also taking their landlord to court. 
"It was on our radar because we had comprehensive litigation but then we found out the tenants were organized and had a 7-a case and we supported their 7A," said Assistant Commissioner at Housing Preservation and Development Grace DeFina. 
HPD's legal team was pursuing comprehensive litigation in 2019 and jumped on board with the 7A case. They'd issued at least 90 violations against the landlord dating back to 2019. Many of those violations relate to unrepaired fire damages.
"It caused a lot of problems with the mold, the leaks which is why we addressed the exterior of the building. The facade work was done, the windows were replaced, and plumbing and electricity were done. It's a full rehab," said DeFina. 
The 7A was finally appointed a few years ago to 7A Administrator Fernando Alfonso. Using City capital funds HPD issued an $800,000 loan to Alfonso to renovate the entire building.  
"They want it. They want the changes. They're living in deplorable conditions. And knock on wood, they've got the 7-a program to help them," said Alfonso. 
The upper-level apartments are complete and soon work on the lower-level apartments, including Cordero's, will begin. 
"We get to live!" shouted Cordero. 
When it's complete, a decades-long fight will be put to rest for these Troutman Street residents. 
"I'm very sensitive to this. It's not easy. I'm sorry for all the people who have to fight hard to get what they want. I encourage them to fight to get what they want," said Cordero. 
According to DeFina, 7A is typically a last resort for the city when trying to hold a landlord accountable. 
Senior Staff Attorney for Mobilization for Justice Patrick Tyrrell recommends that the first step tenants should take when battling a negligent landlord is to organize with their neighbors. He says several people calling 311 is much more impactful than one. 


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