Residents of a Bronx building in University Heights have returned to their apartments after being displaced for a month and a half when city inspectors discovered that contractors doing repair work had inexplicably removed all of the building’s fire escapes without a permit. Now tenants are organizing in hopes of preventing similar problems down the road.
The Buildings Department, which issued the vacate order for 2400 Webb Ave. upon discovering the missing fire escapes, inspected the newly installed fire escapes and lifted the vacated order on July 19. Since then, the building’s 200 or so tenants have been returning to their homes and normalcy.
“Folks are trying to reorganize themselves, everything appears to be in order,” tenant Michael Staton said. “I can’t say much about the quality of [the fire escapes].”
Last month, Staton and other tenants took their landlord, Goldfarb Properties, to Bronx Housing Court to address the permit violations and to discuss when tenants could move back in. The judge concluded that if the fire escapes aren’t reinstalled and tenants aren’t allowed back into the building by July 31 then penalties would be imposed on Goldfarb.
At the hearing, Goldfarb Properties attorney said the building management could have the external fire escapes up by the end of July or the first week of August.
But the job was completed earlier than ownership anticipated and following the inspection, the vacate order was lifted completely. Other tenants who didn’t need fire escape access, like those on the first floor, were allowed to return earlier.
Staton said that all tenants were allowed to move back into the building on July 20.
Tenant Karen Butler is glad to be back in the building after having to move her family to Yonkers to stay at a Residence Inn by Marriott Hotels for the past several weeks. She said the move made it difficult for her to get to work and get her daughter off to school in the morning.
Butler said she is not worried about the quality of the fire escapes after the building management expedited the process of reinstalling them.
“I’m happy to be back at home and have normality in my life,” Butler said.
In an effort to prevent this from happening again, tenants of the University Heights building are organizing to create a tenants association to improve communication between the tenants and Goldfarb Properties.
Staton said the purpose of this association is to address individual concerns and to look at ongoing work going on the building.
Tenants intend for their representatives in the tenant association to interact with Goldfarb Properties directly.
“[We want] to keep a watchful eye on things,” Staton said. “We’re looking to put that in place right away,”
Staton is hoping to elect officers for the tenant association by September.