The mold in Bernadette Francis’ Flatbush apartment is so bad she says she had to start sleeping in the living room.
Furniture from his rent-stabilized apartment at 3400 Snyder Ave. rot, Francis suffers from asthma and a specialist told him that the mold was affecting his health. At least three other people in the building also have serious mold problems.
Meanwhile, in the building next door – 3500 Snyder Ave. – a fungus was growing on the wall of an apartment where a newborn lives, tenants’ advocates say. According to city building records, this building has six open mold violations.
Now Flatbush tenants and co-op shareholders say they are tired of asking landlords and management to make sure their homes are warm and dry.
Instead of keeping quiet, Francis decided to share his story in the hope that the problem behind the walls will be solved for good.
“I try to fight, and [the owners] trying to find ways to get me out,” she said BK reader.
The news comes as the city announced it was cracking down on 119 Brooklyn buildings that have tens of thousands of violations, many of them for dangerous mold situations.
History of mold
Francis’ building and the neighboring building are both owned by JRD Management Corp, which also does business as Maxx Properties. In the buildings, some of the residents are shareholders in cooperatives and others are rent-stabilized tenants.
Francis said she tried to work with Maxx Properties to alleviate the problem, but after a rep came and told her to just wipe the mold off, it got worse.
She said the mold was behind the walls and there was a leak in her kitchen. When a contractor came, he replaced the plaster, but did not replace the insulation behind the wall, which was “completely black”.
“Now it’s spreading, eating away at the back of my new chest of drawers. I had to put my clothes in plastic.
In November, an allergy specialist assessed that Francis had likely been exposed to Alternaria mold, and that it was imperative that it be corrected to help him with “severe persistent asthma”, according to a diagnosis seen by BK reader.
However, Francis believes Maxx Properties is instead trying to push her and the other rent-stabilized tenants — many of whom are people of color — out of the building.
Equality For Flatbush – a grassroots anti-displacement organization – agrees and has helped tenants and shareholders connect to fight back.
“Maxx Properties is going after aging black shareholders and black residents in particular,” said E4F founder Imani Henry. BK reader.
Henry referred to a lawsuit Maxx Properties faced in Florida over the death of 72-year-old tenant Sara Cazin at one of its properties. In it, Cazin’s relatives claimed that mold in his home contributed to his death.
The case was closed in 2021. BK reader could not immediately verify whether there had been a settlement in this case.
Henry said he spoke to several residents of Maxx Properties buildings who told him there were numerous leaks that were not being taken care of. “The end result, if they don’t remove the mold, is that people are going to die.”
When reached to comment on the mold at 3500 Snyder Ave., a spokesperson for Maxx Properties said the building was owned by the co-op, not Maxx.
“Normally, owner shareholders/tenants are responsible for the reduction of conditions in their apartments, unless they are caused by a condition which it is the co-op’s responsibility to repair, in which case the co-op carries out the repairs under underlyings,” Horing Welikson Rosen & Digrugilliers PC said attorney Richard T. Walsh, on behalf of Maxx.
Walsh did not immediately respond to further questions regarding mold in other buildings.
Records show that the 3500 Snyder Avenue Owners Corp. is owned by JRD Management Corp, the parent company of Maxx Properties.
Virginia Ravenscroft, 51, a co-op shareholder in another Maxx Properties building at 285 E 35th St, said BK reader it was clear that Maxx Properties wanted rent-stabilized tenants.
“Maxx is responsible for mold in the apartments of rent-stabilized tenants. These apartments are owned directly by Maxx Properties, and this is where most of these mold issues occur.
Whose responsibility is it?
According to the City, owners of buildings with three or more apartments, or buildings of any size where a tenant has asthma, are required to keep tenants’ homes mold-free.
This includes safely repairing water leaks and correcting persistently high humidity levels, the city said.
The Department said BK reader it was the owner’s responsibility to fix the mold, by law.
In the case of cooperatives, these responsibilities may be shared between the management and the shareholder, depending on the rules of the cooperative.
It is common for shareholders to be responsible for mold within their unit, for example mold in a shower. However, if the mold is caused by something behind the wall, such as a leak, management will likely be responsible, although shareholders should refer to their specific bylaws.
But for tenants like Francis, speaking out and hoping landlords and management companies take action is the only recourse.
“A lot of people here, they keep their mouths shut. And that’s why I fight.
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