Tenants call out landlord for not making repairs, fight against rent increases

Stephon Johnson | 3/11/2021, midnight
Last December, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams unveiled the annual Worst Landlord Watchlist. No. 2: Lewis Barbanel. Tenants ...

Last December, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams unveiled the annual Worst Landlord Watchlist. No. 2: Lewis Barbanel. Tenants from six of his buildings in Washington Heights gathered for a Zoom news conference organized by the Barberry Rose Tenant Union, the Met Council on Housing, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, and Manhattan Legal Services to announce a filing of opposite papers for major capital improvements (MCIs).

The groups are collectively demanding immediate repairs to their apartments and buildings totaling $1.5 Million.

Jason Pimentel, the tenant leader for 129 Sherman Avenue, said during the conference that the conditions in his building leave him feeling abandoned.

“Ever since Barberry Rose Management took over, home feels like hell and unsafe,” said Pimentel. “Everyone is worried about lease renewals being denied and the rent going sky high, because of major capital improvements. We all believe we shouldn’t have to pay MCI rent increases because in our eyes and testimony we are not even getting the bare minimum, the necessary repairs, and essentials to live in a dignified home.”

Tenants want the New York State Homes and Community Renewal to deny the landlord’s request for rent increases due to numerous hazardous violations in the building according to a new provision of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act. The Barberry Rose Tenant Union also called out Barbanel for not working on repairs for the 4,000-plus open violations in his apartments and buildings.

New York State Sen. Robert Jackson said that he understands what the tenants are going through because he’s been through it.

“As a rent-stabilized tenant for 45 years who’s taken my own landlord to court, I stand in unity with the Barberry Rose Tenant Union, Met Council on Housing, Manhattan Legal Services, and NMIC to condemn Lewis Barbanel’s abusive behavior,” said Sen. Robert Jackson. “There is an extreme number of hazardous violations recorded with HPD in his Northern Manhattan buildings, a direct result of the negligence of Barberry Rose in putting profits before people. We must stand together as a community and show him this conduct is not acceptable.

“Lewis Barbanel, fix your buildings so our people can live in dignity!”

According to the worst landlord list, Barbanel’s portfolio has an average of 2.1 open Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) violations per residential unit. The citywide average is 0.7.

Tenants accused Barbanel of making cosmetic improvements to public areas while gutting empty apartments in order to increase rents.

“Lewis Barbanel, I know you are running a business and trying to make a profit, but please don’t do it at the expense of our lives,” said Fatima Solano, Barberry Rose Tenant Union Leader from 129 Sherman Avenue.