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Brownsville tenants live without hot water and electricity
for days as temperatures soar

This story was first published on the New York Daily News

By Marco Poggio and Reuven Blau

They’ve been living in squalor — and now tenants at a Brownsville apartment building have been without gas or hot water for more than two weeks.

Residents who already endure mold-infested ceilings and the revolting stench of rotting garbage say conditions became unbearable earlier in July when their power was shut off as temperatures began to soar.

“People here are suffering,” said Garrett Robinson, 43, who lives in the four-story walkup complex at 702 Rockaway Ave. “It’s a horrendous situation.”

Residents were sweat-drenched for three sleepless nights beginning July 1, when Con Ed cut off the electricity throughout the 18-unit building.

It was later restored, but the restless tenants — who pay an average of $1,200 a month for rent — have been without gas or hot water since. “The worst thing was sleeping,” said 26-year-old resident John Rodriguez. “It was hard to sleep because we had no fans. It was hot.”

Living conditions began becoming deplorable last July when building owner Dr. Mehfar Menocher turned control over to Handcheikh, a Georgia-based independent real estate company, tenants said.

Alvaro Moreno, 22, showing his broken oven.

The change made Handcheikh responsible for collecting rent, paying utilities and managing the building — duties the firm never fulfilled, according to a lawsuit Menocher against them in June.

“They are the one at fault here,” said Menocher’s lawyer, Bradley Silverbush, who blamed the company for the shutdowns.

A Handcheikh official pointed the finger back, saying the utilities were shut off because some of the tenants stopped paying rent, making it impossible to cover the bills.

Meanwhile, residents say garbage bags are piled four feet high behind the building and mold continues to take over the grimy hallway ceilings, where rain leaks through cracks.

“We almost had an electrical fire,” said tenant Michael Key, 24. “Water has been dripping down.”

But until payments are made or the city intervenes, residents will remain without hot water and gas.
“All human beings need that!” said resident Charles Norris, 68.

City inspectors have hit the building’s owner with violations for the lack of gas and hot water. They are also looking into units that may have been illegally subdivided.

An emergency repair crew was slated to visit the location for a re-inspection Wednesday, the city Housing Preservation and Development Department said.

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