Inclement weather did not deter the tenants of 73-83 Highland Avenue and advocates with Community Voices Heard from meeting with Congressman Jamaal Bowman on Monday, December 18, 2023 to share the poor living conditions and challenges with the property owner and management.
It seems that there has been a decade-long battle with property-owner Israel Rozman since the most recent renovations in 2013. The strife ultimately led former tenant council president Deborah Baker and neighbor Candice Vaughan to solicit the support of Community Voices Heard. This grassroots, member-led organization has been at the forefront of housing issues in Yonkers.
Occupants of the 129 unit, multi-family building have varying complaints that include, but are not limited to: structural damage, poor ventilation, improper heat and hot water, broken pipes and leaks, mold and mildew in bathrooms and kitchens, elevators that do not function regularly, an infestation of mice and other pests and an odor in the stairwell and common areas that is almost debilitating. There have also been reports of families diagnosed with respiratory illnesses. And relatedly, an increase in the number of children diagnosed with asthma, potentially from the poor living conditions. One resident became overwhelmed to tears when describing the challenges of residing in the Yonkers Apartments.
There was a time when we were proud to live in this building but those days are long gone.Deborah Baker
Calling on their Congressman
During a town hall meeting on October 16, residents petitioned Rep. Bowman to tour the site and view the conditions first-hand. Upon arrival, one of the elevators was out of order. As the group climbed the stairs to view two of the units in the building, the stench became unbearable– causing individuals to move hurriedly to the exits. Inside each of the units there was evidence of mold and other hazardous conditions. One resident advised that she was unable to use her oven to prepare meals because of the dead rodents inside.
During the visit, a CVH organizer received a call from the property manager, Ms. DeLeon, who questioned the participants of the tour. DeLeon also specifically questioned why the Congressman was present. Those in attendance were therefore curious to know how she became aware that Congressman Bowman was present on the tour. Residents reported “bully tactics” and retaliation when engaging with the property manager. As such, the tone and tenor of this most recent call was perceived as discourteous with the intent to intimidate. However, the tour continued and a meeting with the residents followed without further interruption.
Taking action through oversight
The tenants petitioned Congressman Bowman to commit to a federal inspection of the property. This would further include a convening of representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), The New York State Division of Housing and Renewal (HCR) and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (CVR) to address concerns. It was also suggested to include the City of Yonkers’ Department of Housing and Buildings to review any outstanding violations against the property.
This is only the beginning […] Our congressional office is committed to ensuring that we hold those entities accountable and will make certain that the tenants are informed of the happenings as things progress.Rep. Jamaal Bowman
Tenants and the Congressman intend to schedule a follow-up meeting about this property soon. The Yonkers Ledger will be present to continue reporting on any updates to this story.