These are real – and illegal – problems.

27 Jul

The mold that was on every window in my apartment, and that had taken over the inside of an entire closet for several months.

The comment in question from my last post:

“i have been a tnt of for many years and have seen many landlords come and gone. so were very good others not the best but none perfect. I am glad to live in an urban building they may not be the best or always sunnyshine to speak to but who is. can you imagine dealing with so many people in one day. the problem today is that as tenants we believe we deserve all that we ask for and in reality we should but in that case we can buy our own homes and live in luxury. what has this world come to when we are complaining about rent receipts and washing machines. do you this is the first landlord to send us rent receipts. there are bigger problems in the world like not having jobs or food to eat and most important health. please take a look at your complaints and make more use of your time like helping those in need.”

This person apparently thinks that Urban American’s tenants, the majority of whom are low-income, can afford to buy their own homes in New York City – and live in luxury, for that matter. This is absolutely ridiculous, considering housing prices in NYC are the some of the costliest in the U.S.; even basic 2 bedroom homes in the outer boroughs start at $500,000. In Manhattan, that same amount of money will get you a studio apartment. Don’t believe me? Check local real estate listings. Are you going to tell Urban American tenants like Myra Santana and James Outlaw that they can just magically afford to go buy their own properties for this amount of money?

Regardless, this commenter apparently does not think that the issues faced by Urban American tenants are real problems worth dedicating my time and energy to. Yes, this is NYC, and not Somalia. I’m sure we’re all quite thankful for the blessings and privileges that we have in our lives. However, the issues listed below are still worth acknowledging and fighting. It’s not a game of suffering Olympics, and it’s possible to care about multiple issues in the world at once.

Let’s break it down:

And it’s not a problem that I’m disgusted and outraged by all of this.

The trolls have arrived.

27 Jul

Hi, Urban American! It seems you’ve found our site. Welcome. Pull up a seat.

What is a troll? In e-slang, “trolls” post inflammatory, offensive, rude, or inappropriate comments to message boards or forums.

Today, I checked this site to find that there were multiple similar comments left by “Portra Nostrand”, using the email address myusername@yahoo.com. Though the comments were exactly the same (which is why I’ve only approved one, for spam’s sake), they were all linked to different IP addresses. (What is an IP address? Whatismyip.com explains.) Oddly, though the comments were posted within minutes of each other, one of “Portra’s” IP addresses was based in Bedminster, NJ – the other was coming from San Jose, CA.

Urban American owns properties, and is based out of, New Jersey, but has nothing to do with San Jose, CA. I’m guessing that they’ve found this site and are “trolling” it, and they’re trying to hide their tracks. Nice try. They’re notorious for tenant harassment (for example, stealing mail, threatening phone calls, etc.) so this is no surprise. Too bad they were outwitted.

My reply to the troll comment will be in the next post, entitled “These Are Real Problems”.

Fan Mail

25 Jul

On July 23rd, C wrote:

“Came upon your blog while searching for Urban American’s phone number, since the laundry in our building at 106 Fort Washington Ave in Manhattan (Urban American-owned as of about 11/10) has essentially been out of service for the past four months. It began with one of the 70-unit building’s whopping TWO dryers breaking down, at which no repairs were even so much as hinted. This was quickly followed by one of the building’s 3 washers shutting down, and it’s now been full of stagnant, fetid water for the past three months. Today we ventured down into the filthy depths of the basement (dotted, of course, with the corpses of many fallen cockroaches) only to find that the 2nd dryer has now malfunctioned, leaving a grand total of TWO washers and ZERO dryers at the tenants’ disposal. This phenomenon of unfixed laundry goes nicely with the scrambling of mice throughout our apartment and those wonderful winter mornings we spent shivering through 60 degree showers.Anyhow, just wanted to say I love the blog, and also let you know that our address is now a member of the Urban American Army. When I saw what you’ve been keeping, I was inspired to consider printing up flyers to post all over the building, to keep all of my fellow tenants informed as to how awful Urban American truly is. Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the story, C. I’ll be adding 106 Fort Washington Avenue (52 open violations!) to the list of Urban American Management owned buildings. In the meantime, here’s what you can do if you’re trapped in an Urban American building. Good luck.

Your help is appreciated!

7 Jul
How to Become a Landlord - From ToothpasteForDinner.com

Appropriate comic from Toothpaste for Dinner, click to enlarge.

We’re up to nearly 1,200 page views!

Now that the site has started to gain traction in Google results, I’ve been getting some interesting emails – for example, an employee from State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.’s office wanted to discuss the conditions Urban American buildings in the Bronx. I wonder which other local politicians may be interested in getting involved in the fight against predatory equity? Will NYC’s “worst landlord” watchlist be updated to truly hold Urban American accountable for all of its buildings and violations?

In the meantime, if you have any stories to share about Urban American, please feel free to email them to nyctenantadvocate@yahoo.com, or leave them as comments on this site’s various posts and pages. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway, and I promise to keep you fully anonymous. Write however you please, and say whatever you want. The more real-life accounts of how Urban American treats its tenants, the better! News articles and any other bits of information are also appreciated, of course.

May Update: Don’t think I’ve forgotten!

23 May

Is Urban American really too big to be held accountable?

As of May 23rd, 2011, this site has had 695 total views. Not bad, but I’m waiting for the moment when the number of visitors to this site is greater than the number of housing violations that Urban American is guilty of. In the past month, I unfortunately have not been able to track down any new buildings in Urban American’s name, so the total number of violations has remained static. However, I’m keeping tabs on Urban American with the help of Google Alerts, which will let me know whenever new information appears in Google’s search results related to their dealings. I’m not letting them get anything past me.

I find it frustrating that this site hasn’t been given any attention by the news media, not only because Urban American deserves the negative publicity, but because coverage by a news organization may lead to an official investigation. Today, a housing inspector from HPD (the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development) dropped by unexpectedly to check out my unit’s violations, and I asked him why I haven’t seen any action taken against Urban American by HPD or the Office of the Public Advocate. The inspector claimed that “the problem is that Urban American is a corporation, not a private landlord, and therefore they cannot be held accountable.”

I beg to differ, especially considering how in the eyes of the Supreme Court, corporations have the same rights as individuals. Google “corporate personhood”, it’s a sad truth. Thus, while it may be difficult for HPD to go up against Urban American and the out-of-state investment bankers which fund it, this argument holds no water. For the record, the housing inspector was a very friendly guy, and I do not intend to be disrespectful of him in any way.

On the contrary, Urban American continues to be incredibly disrespectful to its tenants. It’s about time someone called out Josh Eisenberg and his cohorts on their tenant harassment and habit of keeping their units in disgusting conditions. Later this week, I’m going to pay a direct visit to the Office of the Public Advocate and see if there’s anything that can be done. I’d also like to begin writing to the politicians who serve the areas with the greatest number of Urban American buildings, and to create a map of these buildings as opposed to the running list. Hopefully, these actions may help myself and other Urban American tenants achieve justice once and for all.

Pertinent Videos

25 Apr

“3333 Broadway – Saving the Mitchell Lama Program” uploaded to YouTube September 28th, 2009.

Description: “Residents protested the alleged discrimination against affordable-housing tenants in 3333 Broadway, a giant housing development where many are now struggling to remain in residence.” Excellent description of what the tenants of 3333 Broadway in Harlem have been dealing with with regards to Urban American Management’s rampant neglect and harassment.

“Queens Tenants Protest Alleged Unfair Rent Hikes”
, posted April 18th, 2008 by NY1 News. Unfortunately, I cannot embed this video.

More videos will be added as they are located. If you know of any videos related to Urban American Management or tenants standing against their practices, please email them to nyctenantadvocate@wordpress.com.

Ready to Debut

25 Apr

I’ve given this site about two weeks to get picked up on Google, and to double-check my findings and sources and see if I come across anything else worth adding.

At this point, I feel ready to start promoting this site to various NYC news blogs and so on. Let’s get the word out and help protect prospective tenants! Wish me luck.