it's neighbor against neighbor on 71st street news

| 12 Jul 2016 | 12:11

UPDATED In the South Pierre residential building at 160 W. 71st Street and Broadway, turmoil and confusion among tenants has been growing for the last year.

The building began undergoing heavy renovation and construction in 2015, after the Brodsky Organization's leadership had fallen to Daniel Brodsky, who is currently the chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Some tenants, like Susan Schwartz, who has lived in her apartment for the last 30 years, complain of dangerous living conditions caused by the construction, but others are supportive of the changes. According to Rick Mason, executive director of management at the Brodsky Organization, these changes include “replacing the boiler and oil tank, façade renovations required by Local Law 11, a new refuse and recycling system, installation of a new storage facility, refurbishment of common spaces and upgrading of five elevators.”

But Schwartz described living next door to an apartment that was being renovated as “three months, six days a week of jackhammering, sledgehammering.”

“They took the floor down to the dirt, they took the wall down to the studs … and they didn't have a building permit,” said Schwartz, who formed a tenants' association last summer that she says counts about a third of the building's residents as members. She also brought City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal into the loop around that time.

“I've been pushed to the brink,” Schwartz said. She has also been collecting rent histories for her and her neighbors' rent-stabilized apartments, which she believes are being targeted by the management to suffer the most invasive construction side effects. Councilmember Rosenthal said she has “seen a lot of construction as harassment at that site. I think often when that is the case the contractor knows just what they're doing.”

A stop-work order was issued in November for a potential asbestos disturbance on the 19th floor. That order was later lifted. According to Mason, only seven of the 59 complaints made to the Department of Buildings in the last year have resulted in violations. Three of those are still being resolved. “The elevators are subject to regular inspections by the [DOB] and have been deemed safe,” Mason said. “In addition, management has requested that its elevator maintenance company inspect each elevator every weekday to ensure they remain in good working condition and safe.”

Many complaints have also been made to 311. One tenant who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution from management said he has called 311 “probably 200 times in the last year.” The tenant identified the elevators as a main concern because of various malfunctions he and his neighbors have experience while riding them.

Though the tenants association say they have never received a response directly from Brodsky, Assemblymember Rosenthal did acknowledge receiving one.

Some tenants say they are perfectly happy with their building and its management, creating somewhat of an awkward situation in the hallways. Last October, 33 tenants signed a letter of support for the management, which they then mailed to several elected officials. Though the letter acknowledges that the tenants' association has been helpful in securing some improvements and repairs, its purpose was to clarify that the signees do not share the same concerns of the tenants' association.

“We are worried that our building is starting to become a nuisance to the many building inspectors and the Fire Department in particular,” the letter read. “We have been happy with the services in the building and happy with the hallway renovations.”

Denise Taylor, one of the letter's signees and a 27-year resident of the South Pierre, said she originally supported the tenants' association but now feels it has gotten out of hand. “I think this is the best management we've ever had,” she said. “I'm a social worker, so I'm very pro-tenants … but I was working in really bad neighborhoods where there were real problems. … The feeling is like, 'okay, alright already.'”

Despite the supportive tenant letter, Assemblymember Rosenthal says she will continue to back the tenants. “What I respond to is they didn't have a permit,” she said. “For example, they didn't have a tenant protection plan while they were doing all the work in units and cuttings in the hallway. Everything they were doing, without a permit, has a potential health effect on the tenants.”

According to Mason, “All work in apartments that require permits has them.”

For now, Schwartz and the tenants' association say they will continue to fight.