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Tenants protest Allen AME

Lillie Thomas, 75, had been living in the same Jamaica apartment for 20 years when her landlord told her she had 15 minutes to leave her home last February, the elderly woman told a Sunday protest that Queens residents held in Jamaica against the Allen Affordable Housing Development Corp. and the Greater Allen AME Cathedral.

“I was so upset because I had no place to go,” said Thomas, who lived at 163-19 109th Ave. in Jamaica. “My things are still in the building. They won’t let me go back in.”

Thomas, who now lives with her family in a Brooklyn homeless shelter, was one of about a dozen residents who rallied outside the Greater Allen AME Cathedral, which founded the Allen Affordable Housing Development Corp.

The protesters said the landlord has tried to force them out of the buildings by allowing building conditions to deteriorate in the more than three years the development group has owned the residences, leaving tenants without hot water or heat in the winter months.

“For six months straight we didn’t have a boiler,” said Robert Crawford, Thomas’ grandson. “We had to have the roof repaired three times and it still leaked.”

Allen representatives did not return phone calls for comment.

Edwin Reed, chief executive officer of Allen Affordable Housing, previously had told TimesLedger Newspapers his organization does not want to kick the current tenants out of the buildings, but wants to help them. Reed said the buildings are decades old and need to be completely restored for the tenants to live in adequate conditions.

Alexis Carter, Thomas’ granddaughter, said Allen officials told them they were making them leave their home because the building had conditions that were “perishable to life.”

“We feel violated,” said Carter, who works with autistic individuals in Jamaica. “It’s been really hard for us.”

Allen officials did offer to relocate Thomas and her family, but the “facilities they offered were in worse condition than her original building,” Crawford said.

Allen Affordable Housing purchased Jamaica properties from the city several years ago and tenants said they had promised to run a federally funded mortgage assistance program, which they said never came to fruition.

“We’re going to be out here protesting until the federal government intercedes,” said Fredrick Jones, the sole tenant at an Allen-owned building at 107-05 Sutphin Blvd. “This is fraud, corruption and abuse.”

Joanna Aniello, deputy regional director at the New York and New Jersey office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in a May 2009 letter to Jones that federal HOME Investment Partnerships funding had not been given to Allen and thus HUD could not intervene with problems tenants faced.

Allen tenants have enlisted the help of City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has written numerous letters to the city Department of Housing in an attempt to get the government to come to the aid of the Jamaica residents.

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

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