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It was an extremely rare step, but tenants of 1585 East 172nd Street have long suffered from their landlord’s neglect.
The judge stopped short of ordering the landlord to personally get down on his hands and knees and scrub out the smell of cat piss from the building’s stairwells.
Tenants, the Legal Aid Society, and judges have hounded Suzuki to make basic repairs to the building at 1585 East 172nd Street, where about 50 families are currently putting up with more than 600 housing code violations that have yet to be fixed.
The Times‘ Cara Buckley quoted the tenants’ attorney, Hamza Bassey, from high-powered downtown law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed, as saying, “Mr. Suzuki has treated the court with such disdain. There’s abject squalor in the building. Inhumane conditions. No one should be living under those kinds of conditions.”
During one visit by the Voice to the leaky, moldy, dangerous building, which went the better part of the 2008-09 winter without heat, tenant Ana Almonte displayed football-sized holes in her wall through which rats crawled up from the basement and ate her food.
The building is literally rotting from the bottom up, as the Voice profile of Suzuki and his properties pointed out.
When tenants openly complained, Suzuki’s employees broke up one of their meetings by calling police (no one was arrested after that spurious move), and threatening them with eviction. At another meeting, a giant rat scurried through the room. The walls “shed lead paint,” the Times noted.
Interviewed earlier this spring for the Voice‘s series (Part 1, Part 2), Alice Belmonte, the lawyer for Suzuki, said she was aware of the Almonte family’s collapsed living room and said that the landlord’s workers were trying to take care of the problems but that such repairs were too costly — an argument that no one else is buying. “I’m seeing our guys at the end of the day, and they’re killing themselves,” she said. “There are lots of problems, and every single problem could be solved with a dollar sign.”
Suzuki, who is better known as a developer in Flushing draped with honors by Asian-American and Jewish organizations, has been under court order since January to make repairs at the building. He owns two properties that are on the city’s list of buildings with the highest number of housing code violations. Arrest warrants are highly unusual in housing court.