Tenants of city's 'worst landlord' want change

After years on notorious watchlist, complaints about one proprietor still persist

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While many hope to find solace in their own home, Rosario Ramon has grown weary of hers.

“As much as I love my home, I’m also tired of fighting these battles with this building’s landlord,” Ramon said, in Spanish. “There’s just so much to deal with that I don’t even know where to begin.”

Ramon’s two-bedroom apartment is located inside 16 Marble Hill Ave., a place she’s called home for more than a dozen years — and a building notorious for being run by who public advocate Jumaane Williams has described as one of the city’s worst landlords.

“It’s been one issue after another in this apartment, and nothing ever seems to be fixed,” Ramon said. “I can complain to the super or the landlord, and none of them ever get anything done.”

Ramon’s biggest problem right now is the plumbing in her bathroom. She has two 12-inch squared holes in her wall that expose pipes and run clean water into her toilet.

But the holes themselves aren’t exactly the problem.

“Every time we flush the toilet, the water comes pouring out of those pipes and onto the bathroom floor — sometimes flooding the entire bathroom,” Ramon said. “That’s why now I have the little plastic baskets there to catch the water, so it doesn’t get all over the place.”

Making the situation worse, Ramon fears one day the bathroom floors may give out because of how they’ve sunken over the years.

The idea isn’t too far-fetched since she says she’s had the ceiling in her living room collapse several times. Blotchy patchwork on several sides of the room’s ceilings remains a lasting reminder of those past structural issues.

And then there’s the heat. It’s the worst time of the year to be without heat since temperatures can easily dip to the low 30s and 20s.

More so, her Marble Hill building sits just feet away from Spuyten Duyvil Creek, where the wind tends to pick up and create a more frigid atmosphere.

“It’s too cold for the heat to come and go as often as it does,” Ramon said. “Thankfully it doesn’t happen every day. But still, every day that it’s cold out there should be heat.”

Ramon also complained about the shoddy electric work in her apartment, but heard nothing back from the landlord.

“I’ve had to have a close family friend come and fix some of the electrical issues we’ve had recently,” she said. “That should be the landlord’s job to come and fix it.”

Ramon’s building is one of a handful owned by Moshe Piller, who ranks among the city’s top 30 worst landlords, according to the public advocate. Piller also runs a building just around the block at 1 Jacobus Place that isn’t doing much better.

Jeliffer Aguero would be the first to tell you her first-floor apartment is riddled with issues.

“We have no heat or hot water in the apartment,” said Aguero, who has lived in the 42-unit building for more than four decades. “It’s been two years since we’ve had gas for our stove.”

Aguero, who’s lived at the 84-unit building for three years, pays $1,140 a month in rent. Like many of her neighbors, she feels like her complaints were ignored by Piller, who could not be reached for comment.

Moshe Piller owns 16 Marble Hill Ave., and three other buildings that helped him land in the sights of city public advocate Jumaane Williams once again as one of the city’s worst landlords.
Moshe Piller owns 16 Marble Hill Ave., and three other buildings that helped him land in the sights of city public advocate Jumaane Williams once …

“Whenever we call them to come fix something in the house, no one ever comes,” Aguero said. “And nothing ever gets done.”

Piller’s Marble Hill Avenue property racked up more than 91 housing preservation and development violations, along with a dozen buildings department violations.

One of the violations was related to an illegal subdivision of one of the apartments into five single-room occupancy units, according to buildings department spokesman Andrew Rudansky. Two more violations are tied to an illegal basement apartment.

There are twice as many violations at Jacobus Place, giving Piller some 580 of them. Yet, Williams’ ranking is actually an improvement for Piller, who finished as high as fourth on the worst landlord list back in 2015 by then public advocate Letitia James.

Back then, Piller had eight buildings on the list, racking up more than 1,200 violations. Then a year later, two children were killed in a Hunts Point building Piller owned after steam reportedly erupted from a radiator valve in the same room the toddlers were sleeping in.

Now tenants there have organized, demanding that conditions at the building improve.

The Hunts Point Avenue building was part of the city’s cluster-site program — which handed landlords hefty payouts to house the city’s homeless.

Often the building conditions were substandard and empty. Many of the problems from 2016 still persist today, according to published reports. Those include malfunctioning elevators and deteriorating walls that tenants say compromises the building’s structural integrity.

Ramon says she was recently diagnosed with cancer. She now fears the conditions are her Marble Hill apartment will only exacerbate her condition.

“How am I supposed to live like this when I’m already dealing with health issues that threaten my life,” she said.

Ramon also is tired of waiting for things to change, and hopes city officials will finally take substantive action against the landlord.

“We need help with this” landlord, she said. “All we’re asking for is to have our basic needs met. We just want to live in a normal and safe building.”

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