In our Opinion
Jul 21, 2009 | 6278 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We're clearly dealing with some "fuzzy math" here because certain things just don't add up in the Vantage slumlord debate that's raging across Queens and Brooklyn.

On one side of the equation there's a powerful residential management company claiming it provides first-rate management services for its tenants.

On the other side are countless tenants who say Vantage consistently ignores their complaints, and is purposefully letting its buildings go to pot to drive rent controlled tenants out in order to raise rents.

What gives? Who is lying, and who is telling the truth? In fact, and to be fair, both sides are likely guilty of some exaggeration - in particular in the case of Vantage's 43-43 91st Place property in Elmhurst.

Apartments there do suffer regular problems like broken locks and windows. Many tenants there complain of rats in their apartments. Garbage piles up in the building's side alleys.

Tenants are furious Vantage opted out of providing onsite janitorial services in favor of a more impersonal 24-hour hotline they say rarely works. Nobody should have to live like that.

While living conditions in the building need serious and immediate improvement, the hotline does function, and residents should remember it is part of a massive, citywide system serving thousands of apartments.

Still, tenants feel deeply disrespected by Vantage, and in this case the company has made few strides to address this. The company's decision to eliminate traditional janitorial services for a call-in hotline hardly showed tenants Vantage cares for their wellbeing.

Building regulation in the city needs to be reformed.

Councilman Bill de Blasio's proposal to establish a Slumlord Watch List could be an important first step. The list would use public records to identify negligent landlords, thereby pressuring them to clean up operations in order to get off the list.

Another measure, however, would improve living conditions even faster: changing the city's Housing Maintenance Code so property owners of smaller buildings cannot opt out of providing live-in superintendent services.

Currently, managers of buildings with nine or more units can opt for alternative janitorial services. That threshold should be raised. It makes no sense for smaller buildings like the Elmhurst building in question that might have a few dozen units and need the personalized attention of a live-in superintendent.

This would go a long ways towards ensuring that lines of communication between tenants and property managers remain open, eliminating the kind of ugly discord Vantage now enjoys with its Elmhurst tenants.

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