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Kew Gardens apartment residents claim landlord abuse

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Residents living in a Kew Gardens apartment building owned by Vantage Properties are railing against their landlord, accusing the company of taking too long to fix an elevator on which many disabled and elderly individuals and parents rely, being generally unresponsive to concerns and attempting to harass and evict rent-stabilized tenants.

Many of the individuals living in 110 apartment units in the building at 83-30 118th Street in Kew Gardens are protesting Vantage’s recent announcement that the building’s broken elevator will not be fixed for months, saying the move has essentially trapped disabled and older residents.

“I have two blown knees, a shoulder blown out and I’m diabetic,” said a fifth-floor resident who wished to remain nameless for fear of repercussions from Vantage. “I go out twice a week now. We’re being held captive in our own apartments.”

Second-floor resident Kourosh Nassimian helped to organize a meeting at the end of June to discuss tenants’ frustrations over the elevator with Vantage representatives.

“At the meeting we collected signatures and sent it to the [city] Department of Buildings asking for a reduction from the rent because you’re entitled to get a 10 percent reduction in rent if you don’t have an elevator,” said Nassimian, who has lived in the building for nearly 30 years.

Residents at the meeting said Vantage officials said the repair would take approximately three months, although a June 24 letter from Vantage to residents said the elevator project would take seven to eight weeks.

“While we are making every effort to expedite these repairs, this was a situation caused by an act of vandalism that required us to special order custom-made parts,” the letter states.

Tenants said they doubted residents had vandalized the elevator and they accused Vantage of lying to collect insurance money to fix the elevator.

Vantage did not return requests for comment.

The decision to unite against Vantage over the elevator has highlighted other common problems tenants say they face, including the company’s unwillingness to respond to concerns about a lack of heating in the winter and its attempts to get rid of the poorer residents paying for rent-stabilized apartments in order to bring in wealthier tenants who can afford to pay top-dollar for the real estate.

“It’s hard to list all the problems because there are so many,” said fifth-floor resident Kevin Jamison. “In the winter, the heat is shut off probably two to three times a week between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., when 75 percent of the building is getting ready for work. There’s no heat or hot water. Four people on my floor are living here without leases, and they won’t give them a lease unless they pay $1,600 a month instead of the $900 they’ve been paying.”

Juveny Sanchez, an architect who has lived in the building for nine years, and Nassimian said Vantage has used illegal harassment tactics to force tenants out, including not cashing rent checks and then suing for eviction.

Nassimian said the company has not cashed his rent checks since May, despite numerous complaints from him and his lawyer to do so.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.waiting for comment from Vantage

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