Brownsville Tenants Face Denial of Basic Services
As temperatures began to rise in early July, tenants at 702 Rockaway Avenue had no relief from the heat. Electricity and gas to the entire building was shut off. There was no garbage collection. And the protective intercom system cover was removed, exposing dangerous wiring to tenants and their young children. Days later, electricity was restored, but there has been no gas or hot water in the building for the past three weeks.
Tenant H., who did not want to give his full name, said he just moved into the building from a shelter in June. H. said he rents a room in a three bedroom apartment. Two other tenants rent the other rooms. According to H., the apartments are broken into individual rooms for rent. He is grateful the electricity was restored, but in addition to no hot water or
gas, the building is infested with mice.
Bryant Stevens has been renting a room for four months. Bryant blames the sudden problems on “the scammers”, Bryant’s name for the management company that was responsible for building services. “The scammers take rent in cash,” said Bryant, “and doesn’t give receipts.” Noting that they do not have the protection of leases, Bryant said tenants are going to court to get leases.
The tenants didn’t know what was going on.
One day they noticed a lot of activity in the building. The next thing they knew, said Bryant, the gas and electricity was cut off and the protective panel on the intercom was removed. The abrupt lack of services was beyond the building’s normal “when it rains there is no hot water,” said Bryant. When Bryant called the building’s owner – Dr. Michael Mehrfar – to report the problems, he also complained about 6 feet of garbage in the building’s rear outdoor area that was infested with rats and mice. After talking with Dr. Mehrfar,
“Me and my friend took the super position,” said Bryant, “because there wasn’t a super.” In a show of industriousness, Bryant and his friend cleared out the garbage that Bryant said came from the church behind the building and people throwing bags of garbage out the windows.
Bryant and his family have known for years because he has been his family doctor. Mehrfar has a medical clinic in the next block at 720 Rockaway Avenue.
Bryant is willing to work with Dr. Mehrfar, but he does miss home cooking. “I like to cook chicken or shrimp parmigiana. Anybody can fry chicken,” said Bryant. But without gas,
nobody in the building can cook.
Dr. Mehrfar has practiced medicine in Brownsville for 49 years. “I helped everybody,” said Mehrfar, “Now I want to retire but can’t because no doctor wants to come here.”
According to Mehrfar, one guy from Trinidad rented all the (702 Rockaway Avenue) apartments “from our corporation” and rented the rooms to more than 50 people. “Then he did
not pay for heat for them, no hot water, electricity. This guy take money from them and run. You are not supposed to do that,” said Mehrfar. “Right now nobody is paying rent to me. I
don’t know what to do,” said Mehrfar. “Some of them paid to the other guy. But he did not pay any of the expenses. They took money from tenants then sent it to Trinidad.” Mehrfar added, “But he’s going to jail, I hope. It’s a very big fraud.” I hope the people are not denied services for very long,” said Mehrfar. “I don’t want the people to suffer.”
New York Communities for Change has stepped in to assist tenants of 702 Rockaway Avenue.