Jesenia and her daughter outside their apartment building. (Photo Credit: Sam Gillette)

Jesenia and her daughter outside their apartment building. (Photo Credit: Sam Gillette)

The two-bedroom apartment that Jesenia Ventura shares with her three young children, her sister, and her mother Amalia Martinez is so run-down that some windows will stay open only long enough to smash fingers, while others are stuck open even in winter. Frames of doors are ripped off, floor tiles are pulled up, and there is no running water in the bathroom sink, Jesenia says. There is green and black mold, drooping ceilings and a floor that is so warped that Jesenia’s son once tripped and cut his forehead. Jesenia worries that if she takes her kids to daycare, she’ll be reported to Child Protective Services. She says they regularly wake up in the middle of the night itching from painful-looking bedbug bites, and cockroaches crawl across their beds.

The conditions at 501-505 Grand Street, in Williamsburg, are so poor that in the summer of 2014, Amalia, Jesenia and four others organized a tenant association and filed official complaints to NYC Housing Preservation and Development. They hoped to persuade the building’s new owners, Manny and Eden Ashourzadeh of 501 EMR LLC, to make critical repairs. Keep Reading »