last court date in June with picket signs and the backing of local politicians like Council Member Rosie Mendez, but rather than taking their landlord to court the tenants recently signed a settlement with Icon wherein the company agreed to pay $10,000 in civil penalties and make all the necessary repairs.After months of living with faulty fire escapes, inconsistent heat and hot water and lack of cooking gas, tenants of 128 Second Avenue, between St. Marks and East Seventh Street, finally reached a resolution with their landlord, Icon Realty Management. It looked like the tenants were ready for a court battle when they showed up for their
The five original tenant petitioners were joined by six more by the time the settlement was finalized, according to the official court documents. “The tenants were driving the process in that they determined what they think is adequate compensation, so they’re happy with the settlement,” said Jane Li, staff attorney for the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. Lawyers for both sides say all but the cooking gas has been repaired and the gas line should be fixed within the next few weeks. Not only that, but the tenants were financially compensated for the inconvenience, their attorney told us yesterday. Though Li declined to go into details about the financial aspects of the agreement, the settlement states that “any and all claims by petitioners/additional tenants/and or HPD [Department of Housing Preservation and Development] for any and all civil penalties for violations to date is fully and finally settled for $10,000 due to be paid to DHPD on or before Sept. 24, 2015.” It goes on to say that if Icon doesn’t pay up by eight days after the deadline they will be ordered to pay $50,000.
The East Village building, which also houses the shuttered Stage restaurant, has been having issues with its gas lines since the Second Avenue gas explosion in March, though Icon says many of the building’s issues were present before Icon purchased it a little more than a year ago. “The tenants, owner and city worked diligently and constructively to address conditions in the building, many of which developed over a period of time before we became involved, and to resolve the legal proceedings to the mutual satisfaction of the parties. The work has been progressing swiftly, and all of the parties look forward to the completion of the on-going repairs and restoration of services,” said an Icon spokesperson via email through Icon’s attorney.
Since the beginning of 2015, the building has racked up 114 total complaints with HPD. It wasn’t until a couple weeks after the explosion occurred, though, that Con Edison shut off the gas due to work being being done on the gas lines in the basement without a permit, sparking debate about who was at fault for the illegal work. Icon installed boilers in the basement to provide hot water, hotplates for cooking, and space heaters back when the weather was still chilly, but tenants said the temporary solution was far from perfect, saying the hot water especially was often spotty.
Stephanie Rudolph of the Urban Justice Center told us in June that she didn’t believe the landlord had the rent regulated tenants’ best interest in mind. “They definitely want as many of the rent regulated tenants out as possible,” she said. “Rents are going to be lower with a rent regulated building—that’s just the reality.”
Li says she believes Icon, which recently showed up on a list of the city’s worst landlords, would have been found in contempt of court for failing to fix the building’s issues in the court-ordered time allotted had the two sides not come to a mutually beneficial agreement; after the tenants filed a motion in June to hold the landlord in contempt of court, “the settlement discussions became more substantial and the terms were more along the lines of what the tenants would be willing to accept,” she said.
Icon says the gas line used to fuel the building’s kitchen stoves are the only thing left to repair, but it’s not an easy fix. “That’s an ongoing process that requires more intensive work. It’s now moving along at a more rapid pace, but that’s the only service that needs to be restored,” Li said, adding that the building’s heating system has been repaired and passed inspection. It’s a long time coming for longtime tenants like Christopher Dobrowolski, who told us he’s been through two winters where there were days of inadequate heat. “I will know when it’s the middle or end of October and the temperature starts to go down, and then I will see if I have heat or not,” he said. “If I had good experiences with them before I would be very optimistic, but right now I’m keeping my judgment on hold until I get proof.”