Still A Long Way to Go:

This article is the first negative press the organization has received since 2002. It is bound to happen, and it is our policy to share positive as well as negative media attention with our friends and supporters. But a few comments are in order.

Starting with inaccuracies, the reporter, Sarah Armaghan, was told explicitly that the compactor, far from being “broken” for five months, is actually a new compactor that was installed five to six months ago. Our management company, Dougert Management, tried to work with the contractor to see if there was something about the installation that needed to be corrected, due to complaints by tenants and the super that it was too slow. So the “slam dunk” conclusion that a compactor has been broken and neglected for five months is not only bad reporting; it is a lie.

In terms of fairness, I have no doubt that the tenants’ complaints as represented in the article have merit. On February 23rd we received an email from Dougert, which essentially said that they can no longer work with the situation and that the compactor had to be replaced. That same day, we asked our Construction Monitor for verification that the installed compactor was, as represented by the contractor, done so pursuant to “HPD specifications.” [HPD is the city’s housing department, which provided the loan funds for the compactor that was recently installed.] We needed to know if the compactor should be replaced by the contractor at his expense, or whether we needed to replace it out of building operating funds.

The day before the article was published, I was told by Dougert that the system had completely broken down. At that point, we agreed to hire a porter to assist the superintendent in keeping the hallways and building clean while we worked on the replacement of the compactor.

But it is clear that we still have a long way to go in preventing situations like this. We have been trying to maximize resident participation to prevent these kinds of situations from getting out of hand. We have met with the residents several times since 2009, when Banana Kelly took back control of the Bryant Avenue properties. We have encouraged residents to call us with problems. We have one full time case manager covering about 1000 units. She actually did receive a call regarding this situation, but this did not occur until March 2nd. Additionally, we have a Residents Council made up of tenant leaders from our various buildings, the purpose of which is to act as a link between the residents and our staff, board, and management company. To date, no residents from Bryant Avenue have participated on the Residents Council. Finally, there are three seats on the board of directors of Banana Kelly that are set aside for resident leaders. At this time, there is only one such seat filled by a resident leader.

Finally, I take issue with the casual reference of our residents living in the “concrete jungle of the South Bronx.” I have lived and worked in the South Bronx since 1972 (moved into the neighborhood after college in 1976). My recollection of the term “concrete jungle” referred to gangs, violence, landlord abandonment, vacant, burnt-out buildings, lawlessness, and the like, that made areas like the South Bronx (in the early seventies the 41st Precinct, “Fort Apache,” had the highest unsolved homicide rate in the country) seem like a jungle with concrete instead of trees, an impression reinforced by the existence of such gangs as the “Savage Skulls” that were such an obvious and pervasive part of life in the South Bronx in those days. Maybe the reporter thought the use of the term was “cool,” just as she seemed to be impressed with herself for having personally visited the Bryant Avenue buildings and toured the apartments with tenants. But use of such terms should be avoided, especially use with such casual disregard for how it paints our residents.