Those who live on a tree-lined block in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, are caught in a conflict between misery and luxury.
On one side of Chauncey St. stands the sprawling Fulton Park Plaza: a shining example of affordable housing once built by former Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson, it’s now in disrepair. The apartments are full of mold, mice and insects; compactors are overflowing with garbage bags; The back courtyard keeps pools of dirty water.
On the other hand, the vaulted ceilings of the tenants of 180 Bainbridge, a luxury apartment housed in a 100-year-old Catholic school, are treated with high-end amenities: hardwood floors, yoga room, gym, sauna, and a movie Theatre.
The juxtaposition in living conditions has infuriated people on both sides of Chauncey St., especially since both locations are owned by the same company, Borough Park-based Bushburg Properties.
“This building is being demolished,” said 50-year-old Ralph James, a longtime Fulton Park Plaza resident. “Both buildings are less than 100 meters apart, day and night. It’s not fair.”
James, a construction worker, has a doctor’s note stating that mold conditions in his apartment have left him with a chronic sinus infection. Her 10-year-old daughter, Quelinda, is afraid to use the bathroom at night when rodents continue her way, and refuses to eat food cooked on the stove filled with mouse droppings.
“We can’t breathe at night,” James told the Daily News, noting the mess the vermin leaves around his house every day. “We sleep in the car until a certain hour, then we take a shower at my aunt’s house.
“All winter, nosebleeds, nosebleeds. Because when you turn on the heater, we only smell urine and mouse droppings.”
Bushburg said they had tried to break into James’s apartment 14 times in the past month to make repairs, but he was not allowed in. James is reluctant to accept anything less than a complete refurbishment of the flat, as he believes most of the visits take place while he is away and he believes it will cause more harm to him and his daughter.
James’ complaints were echoed by other residents of Fulton Park Plaza. Many receive federal rental assistance through the Chapter 8 voucher program, designed to provide low-income families with “good, safe, and sanitary housing” in the private market.
Fourth-floor resident Donna Heyward, 61, said her baby daughter, Juanita, is also often sick. patient. “Most of the mold and mildew is in the bathroom, and what they did was cover it up by painting it to pass inspection.”
Yolanda Young, 42, a home health aide who lives in Heyward’s hallway with her six children, kept a clean trash bag with her monthly solution of Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation.
“I’ve never had any breathing problems. I live here, I’m on machines, I get pumps, two different pumps,” says Young, a resident for the past 10 years.
56-year-old resident Michael Jackson was recently diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and thinks his breathing problems are coming through his own walls. “I start coughing like crazy when I get into my bedroom. I’m fine when I go out.”
Tenants say conditions at Fulton Park Plaza have deteriorated so significantly over the past few years that almost everyone interviewed by The News is making plans to leave.
Jackson, a single father of two school-aged children, hopes to move as soon as he transfers his trucking business to the South.
“My promise to them was that I would get them out before school started again. But now that the housing market is so crazy, I’m not sure if I can do it.”
“I have been here for a very long time, 10 years. I’m actually trying to date now,” Young said.
“I want to move to Georgia. I’m sick of the apartment. It’s too much,” says Pamela Johnson, 54, who says she has to wash away the recurring mold in her bathroom with bleach.
Across the street, 180 Bainbridge tenants, paying anywhere from $3,500 to $4,250 for one- and two-bedroom apartments, began to worry about the conditions their neighbors were facing.
After a shooting incident rocked in 2020, several residents got together and wrote to management asking what they were doing to improve life at Fulton Park Plaza.
Former Bainbridge tenant Jacob Gordon, 42, spearheaded this effort. “We wanted to know that we were sending our rent money to an ethical landlord who takes care of their residents, whether they are luxury tenants or low-income families,” he recalls. He claims Bushburg never responded to the note.
The Bushburg website has more than 30 properties with total assets of over $2.5 billion.
Jordan Franklin, the company’s COO, highlighted the company’s efforts to improve the quality of life at Fulton Park Plaza by hosting numerous holiday meals and toy drives, and providing educational programs for children in the building’s common room.
“We invest daily in the care and maintenance of Fulton Park Homes and go above and beyond to help build a community for our residents,” he said. “Fulton Park Homes are safe and well maintained. We have 24-hour security and 300+ security cameras.”
City records tell a different story.
Bushburg purchased the 287-unit complex in 2015 after it became a state-run Mitchell-Lama building that is part of the city’s affordable housing program. Since then, the building has accumulated 84 clear violations by the Department of Housing Conservation and Development, from lack of hot water to an infestation of mold, mice and cockroaches.
32 of these violations fall into the HPD’s “immediately dangerous” category.
In the last 12 months, 147 complaints have been made by residents to the city’s 311 hotlines for everything from lack of hot water to sewage buildup. In contrast, 180 Bainbridge has no clear violations with HPD and only one Buildings Department violation last year on cigarette smoke.
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Many residents, including James, say they are worried that if the building is declared uninhabitable, the landlord will tear it down and build luxury apartments, leaving them out in the cold. There is no indication that Bushburg plans to do what the tenants fear.
“For me, it’s an indelible piece of Black history,” James said. “I understand you are running a business, you are about to make money. I respect that. But you will not make money, and you will not dehumanize the people you make money with.”