Patrick Young, an attorney with the Hempstead-based Central American Refugee Center (CARACEN), said he has seen neighbors in Freeport and Elmont threatening to alert immigration officials as a way to take revenge on people they don't like. Young said the feds are typically more concerned about businesses that hire undocumented workers than about landlords who rent to illegal refugees, but that does little to help Spanish-speaking tenants feel better. "We've even had people come in here who are completely frightened, even though they had legal status to be here," Young said. "It's still an easy way to frighten folks."

Tenants at 54 Greenwich were quick to point out that it sometimes took them months to get repairs, yet inspectors rushed in when people complained of overcrowding by immigrants. Last year, one tenant even made a video of the garbage-filled, rodent-infested basement and waited, tape in hand, at the village hall until she got officials' attention. "I sat for two days at the mayor's office, until he would see this," said Kelly Holman, a white, English-speaking mother who acts as a kind of in-house advocate for Latino tenants and other renters in the building.

Holman said Mayor James Garner got the basement cleaned up pronto. She has also been successful at getting new appliances from the landlord and prodding him to fix problems in other renters' apartments.

Spanish-speaking tenants said they've had much less luck dealing with the landlord on their own. One compared their plight with that of immigrants throughout Long Island, where the disadvantaged many line the pockets of the property-owning few with regular rent checks for decrepit apartments. "In this country, the landlords, they don't like Hispanics," the renter said. "At the end of the month, they love the money."

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