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Sunnyside tenants live under neglectful landlord

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While complaints such as these are not uncommon in Queens,this building is an anomaly in this booming rental market because the landlord is currently renting only 10 of the 32 units in the building at 47-60 39th Place. Residents say he has not leased to a new tenant in 19 years. As the tenants die or move out, the units remain vacant, they said.The tenants were recently organized by a local nonprofit called Woodside on the Move after tenant Nitza Gonzalez asked for help in January."Basically the tenants were suffering for many years," said the group's acting executive director, Lissette Mendez.She said she believed he was holding on to the building until it became empty in order to make it more attractive to buyers, a process known as warehousing."He never rented to anyone. And there are so many people looking for apartments," she said.A spokesman for Housing Preservation and Development said it was rare to see warehousing, but there was no city law against it.Gonzalez, 62, moved into a full building in 1971 with her husband, and there the couple raised their children. The children moved out and her husband died, leaving her alone in a one-bedroom where she pays $679 each month."I feel scared, let me tell you. I am scared because I am alone," she said. She and others in the building said youths have partied in some of the empty first-floor apartments.Residents have organized and planned to meet Wednesday to discuss how to pressure the landlord to make repairs."I haven't seen any other building in western Queens in the total abandonment of the building by the landlord," said housing attorney Robert McCreanor of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. The building has 103 open violations, city Department of Housing Preservation and Development online records show.City records identify the building owner as Sherwin Cohen, chairman of Colene Realty Co. Inc. of Manhattan. He could not be reached for comment.The building is registered in the name of Colene Realty Co. Inc., which is no longer an active company, state Department of State records show.Cohen still owes $39,009 to the city for old repair charges of $108,418 in a deal struck with the Department of Finance, a document on the city Web site showed.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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