Hell Square Hell: Inside 151-153 Ludlow Street During Slate’s Luxury Conversion [Updated]
[Updated below] It’s construction hell for these Hell Square tenements. The side-by-side properties comprising 151-153 Ludlow Street are together amidst an upgrade, with tenants apparently in the crossfire. Another play on the same old song and dance.
Rivington House co-owner Slate Property Group purchased the two buildings for $12.5 million over the summer and plotted renovation almost immediately thereafter. The sights, smells, and overall experience here could be from any similar situation – dust covers over doors, cracked walls and ceilings, dust, debris, etc. Nevertheless, not long after the multimillion-dollar transaction, tenants organized to protect themselves with a solid, united front. For instance, they calendared ongoing monthly meetups with the landlord to create a forum of discussion.
Christened as the Ludlow Tenants’ Association, the nascent group is highly organized and has been in contact, and meeting with, representatives from Slate once a month during construction. It’s an open forum that housing advocates at GOLES and the Urban Justice Center recommended and are mediating. Problems are reportedly on the rise, though, so frequency of these get-togethers (open to the public) are reportedly much higher of late. Some of the more serious concerns revolve around lead dust, plumbing, heating, and gas issues, and addressing the appropriate safety procedures for each.
From what we understand, there are 15 residential tenants living at 153 Ludlow and a single holdout at 151 Ludlow. All are rent stabilized and exposed to the ongoing construction and fallout. To give you an idea of conditions on the ground, residents allege that Slate has turned off the water several times without notice; no heat or hot water for many hours at a clip (oftentimes without notice); major leaks causing ceiling collapse and cracked floors; purported lead paint plumes in both buildings; 151 Ludlow was apparently left completely unlocked overnight last month; the hallway toilet on the fourth floor of 153 Ludlow was removed and not replaced for more than a week. (Sinks and tubs are in the kitchen.)
While Slate definitely makes themselves accessible to tenants vis-a-vis the aforementioned meetings (more than can be said of other bad landlords), tenants intimate that the response time to problems hasn’t been great.
“We have had problems with appropriate response time for emergency situations on multiple occasions,” 151 Ludlow tenant Julie Bartone says. “There have been times when I was without heat and I couldn’t get an answer back from the landlords. There was also a major leak that was left unattended for 19 hours in the ground floor’s common hallway, causing ceiling materials to collapse.”
She continued, “The landlords left 151 completely unlocked (gates open – even front doors wide open – each unit open – all windows open) overnight leaving me susceptible to crime, and [the building] susceptible to squatters. Even though a super is supposed to live within .5 miles of the building for emergency situations, no one came to lock up until the next day.”
Slate denies that the building was ever left unlocked since they acquired the building.
Bartone also alleges that water is shut off randomly and without notice. “[Slate] turned off my water at 151 Ludlow without any notice [last week]. It’s the 3rd time in a matter of 1 month. Each time there is an apology, but it keeps happening. This means being in the shower when the water gets turned off, or being in the middle of brushing your teeth when suddenly, there is no water.”
Children are also subject to the conditions. One tenant representative at 153 Ludlow, Andrea Aimi, is a single mother with a little girl. “I want to open my own door with a sense of decency, mailboxes that work, a clean hallway, heat in the winter, and repairs that are fixed with earnest and care,” she says. “Slate Properties may or may not empty our building but it is my duty as a mother to stand my ground and show my daughter how strangers can come together to divert an impending crisis.”
Another (rent stabilized) tenant representative at 153 Ludlow, Gregg Woolard, has been in the building since 1977.
“Dust, water leaks, cracks in plaster [are all problems that] have been documented, as well as fallen chunks of ceiling in different apartments,” Woolard noted in an email. “Another concern of tenants is the release of lead dust into air circulation with the wall demo to remove/install pipes.”
“To Slate’s credit, they have provided plastic dust barriers on the outside of each apartment door, and the building is kept clean in the common areas and no construction debris are left in common areas.”
This ongoing example of so-called “construction as harassment” is familiar territory for Slate. According to The Real Deal, the controversial landlords allegedly exposed tenants in two of its Upper East Side apartment buildings to hazardous amounts of lead-contaminated dust, the city’s Department of Health noted last year. Those affected residents also logged similar complaints about purported lack of heat and water leakage during renovations.
UPDATE: Slate responded to the article with the following.
The buildings were in a state of disrepair – and had been for some time – prior to us taking ownership of them in the summer of last year. Nearly all of the issues mentioned in the article were related to preexisting conditions of the property. That is why we are now making a significant investment in repairing and updating the buildings.
It is our overall goal to greatly improve the quality of life for residents of the buildings as quickly as possible. During these necessary improvements, we have continually kept residents informed of the work being done, and collaborated with them directly so that it is done well and in a considerate way.
There have been absolutely no lead or gas issues whatsoever, and there have been no plumbing or heating issues related to construction. Any issues were pre-existing conditions and were immediately resolved by building management. We have also offered rent concessions as compensation for any inconveniences caused by the necessary work.