There’s no doubt that the Sunbright Hotel in Chinatown is a dump. Billed as a single room occupancy, the lodgings fall short in the “room” department, packing tenants into 5-by-7-foot metal cubicles topped by a chickenwire enclosure, as reported by the Post, which recently exposed the horrible conditions at the building.
“Roaches, bedbugs, fleas and other vermin infest the building. Hot hallways reek of rotting trash, sweat and urine,” wrote the Post, describing the pest-plagued, overcrowded residence, where more than 100 men share the same communal bathroom. And, after leaving its readers horrified, the tabloid scored something of a coup: mayoral candidate Bill Thompson visited and expressed his shock and outrage.
These days, the housing crisis seems a distant memory in many areas of Brooklyn, as buyers arrive at overcrowded open houses in Park Slope and Cobble Hill, ready to sign a contract on the spot and sellers from Red Hook to Greenpoint vie to set new neighborhood records. But the crash and its aftereffects have not vanished from the borough, as the plight of tenants in a trio in Sunset Park buildings illustrates.
While billionaires grapple over ever-loftier trophies, tearing out onyx to install carrara or vice versa, the tenants of 545, 553 and 557 46th Street in Sunset Park are still mired in the foreclosure crisis, living in decaying buildings with 684 housing violations spread over 51 apartments, according to the department of Housing Preservation and Development.
It’s been six weeks since the apartment building at 2 Thayer Street in Washington Heights had gas or hot water—ConEd shut it off as a safety precaution because of leaks in the pipes. The walls are cracked, pieces of plaster crumble from the ceilings and as of a week ago, the 47-unit building had 94 open violations with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But on paper, at least, 2 Thayer Street doesn’t number among the city’s worst buildings. Not even close.
In the past, a building with only two violations per apartment would have had a hard time attracting the city’s attention. In the wake of the housing crisis, as hundreds of multi-family buildings fell into disrepair, HPD relied on individual tenant complaints to gauge the level of building deterioration, focusing their energies on the most egregious violators, the city’s “worst buildings,” which often have 10 or more violations per apartment.
Hundreds more were also in bad shape, of course, and getting worse, as tenants became the victims of real estate speculation gone bust, but inspections and intensive intervention efforts started only after the the building’s racked up an appalling number of violations.
But in late April, not only did a team of HPD inspectors come to check out 2 Thayer Street, but so did deputy commissioner Vito Mustaciuolo, who spoke to a group of tenants gathered in the lobby.