In March 2007, Manida Street residents filed a housing case against the owner of their apartment buildings, Ocelot Capital Group II.
Since then, HPAC has worked along side families still living in the buildings to fight for livable conditions for them and their children.
The struggle to make a bloc of apartment buildings on Manida Street a livable area has been underway for quite sometime. And although residents are fed up, it seems as though there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“The apartments need total renovation,” says Carmen Rodriguez, the president of the Tenants Association for the buildings. “We didn’t have heat, people were living without ceilings, some people were living without gas — it was a total disaster.”
Omni New York L.L.C., a for-profit group interested in making low-income housing affordable and livable, bought the deed to the properties in question, thus starting long, arduous journey toward making the apartments safe.
Michael Crockett, a resident of the buildings for the past 5 years, says, “I’m staying because my neighbors.
Crockett, who is hopeful, yet skeptical of Omni, said the worst thing about the buildings was the overbearing presence of drugs.
“I just want to sit back and see what happens,” he says.
On November 10, 2010, The FBI made over 30 arrests involving drug trafficking in the area, making it exponentially safer for the more wholesome majority of tenants living in the apartments.
Omni is looking to completely remodel both of the apartment buildings, and has secured $11 million to renovate the 112 units within 621-627 Manida Street.
The deterioration in the buildings started years ago, when the now defunct Ocelot Capital Group abandoned the two buildings. Repairs piled up, and so did the garbage.
HPAC, along with Urban Justice Center, represented the tenants association of a few buildings on the Hunts Point neighborhood throughout their arduous court battle, which eventually turned the dilapidated buildings over to Omni.
Alberto Rodriguez, the vice president of the Tenants Association, believes that Omni is the best decision for the tenants, and that they will pull through for them. However, he understands the tenants’ skepticism.
“I was fed up, I was tired,” he says. “But I have faith in them. We are waiting for everything to fall into place.”
The most immediate change residents of the buildings will see is new security cameras installed, followed by renovating the apartments, and the building itself, which is in need of serious structural stabilization.
“I can tell you, the number one issue is the building itself,” Carmen Rodriguez says.
The front of 627 Manida Street has a crack running down the entire brick face facing the street.
“If we don’t step up, nobody is going to step up for us,” she says.