At a pair of Far Rockaway rental towers, 29 residents have brought two lawsuits demanding repairs from their landlord, who they charge has left the building in a state of disrepair despite receiving more than $29 million in state loans in 2020 to rehabilitate and refinance the 462-unit Mitchell-Lama development.
In the lawsuits, one for each building, residents at Seaview Towers allege “widespread neglect and failure to properly maintain and repair” the building’s apartments and common areas, resulting in issues including “constant and reoccurring [sic] malfunctioning elevators,” pest and rodent infestations, and a lack of adequate heat and clean water.
These “long-standing and reoccurring conditions” and the landlord’s “failure to address them,” the complaint alleges, “are part of a clear pattern of harassment and neglect … with the intent of making the premises inhabitable” to tenants there, who are “predominantly low-income Black and Brown.”
The development’s current owner, Seaview Towers 2006, LP, purchased the buildings in 2006. The lawsuit names Paul and Peter Alizio as “The Head Officer” and “The Officer” of the two buildings. A-1 Realty Management, a company operated by the Alizios, is also named in the lawsuit as a defendant and “managing agent” of the development.
The buildings were built in the late 1970s under the state’s Mitchell-Lama program, aimed at providing more affordable housing for middle-income New Yorkers. Today many residents at Seaview Towers also receive federal Section 8 vouchers to help them pay rent.
A 2021 report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that Seaview Towers had the highest rate of tenant turnover of any Mitchell-Lama rental complex in Queens.
In a visit by THE CITY last week, tenants shared stories, and in several cases photos, of what they described as squalor in their apartments.
At 331 Beach 31st St., Delisa Avery said she and her 1-month-old baby have been staying downstairs in her sister’s apartment to protect her newborn from chipping ceiling paint and a cockroach infestation in her own unit.
Portia Walker, who lives a few floors up, also showed photos of brown and murky water flowing into her kitchen sink from her faucet.
Linda Plummer, a tenant in the building for 12 years and a petitioner in the suit, recalled the day in 2021 when a man was shot in the elevator — and feared that similar incidents could happen again because the back entrance does not lock. It has not been fixed despite complaints from residents.
“The fact that they received millions of dollars of public funding and the buildings are in disrepair — that is inexcusable,” said Johnny Thach, a staff attorney at Queens Legal Services representing tenants at one of the buildings.
Alexander Pabst, the attorney representing the landlord, did not respond to inquiries from THE CITY.
The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which is also named in the suit since it enforces the housing maintenance code, “supports the tenants in obtaining repairs and the correction of violations,” according to spokesperson William Fowler.
Mice, Mold, Murky Water
Property records show that in 2020, Seaview Towers 2006, LP, received a $29 million loan “for the rehabilitation” of the towers from the New York City Housing Development Corporation, a state public benefit corporation charged with financing affordable housing
According to HDC, most of the $29 million loan was used to refinance existing debt at Seaview Towers, with $7 million for repairs including work on asbestos abatement, plumbing, elevators, radiator valves and roofing. HDC says 98% of the work is now complete.
HDC noted that the loans are released in pieces to the landlord based on reviews of completed and requested construction projects that happen at least once a month. HDC said the development has scored “satisfactory” over the last several years in separate annual inspections that “observe physical deficiencies and deferred maintenance.”
The development corporation said the building’s work on “elevator modernization” is nearing completion: there are two functioning elevators and a third one being “worked on.”
Some residents, however, say that living conditions have only worsened.
Gloria Commisso, one of the plaintiffs, is a former cab driver with health issues who relies on a mobility scooter to get around. She said she missed a doctor’s appointment just last month as all three elevators were broken, leaving her stuck inside her 16th-floor apartment.
The elevators are “broken every other weekend and every other day,” said Commisso — adding that its elevator issues have been “on and off” since Superstorm Sandy flooded the area in 2012.
Quianya Cohen, who lives on the second floor, told THE CITY that there is mold in her bathroom, and that she’s taped her radiators to stop mice and roaches from coming up through them. This Christmas, Cohen said, she had to filter and boil cold water because “you couldn’t drink out of” the tap otherwise.
“I have lived here for 16 years, and I never saw nothing like this,” Cohen added, pointing to wall patches in the hallway.
“A lot of people do want to move out and are trying to,” Cohen told THE CITY. “But it’s just like, where else you’re gonna go with rent and everything is so high?”