BATHGATE, THE BRONX — A Bronx grandmother is fighting for better living conditions after her landlord has apparently stopped paying the utility bills.
“I’m worried,” Barbara Castillo said tearfully. “I don’t sleep at night wondering where I’m going to shelter my children and my grandchildren.”
Castillo, a Section 8 tenant, lives in a third-floor walk-up, where you can easily push open the front door. She lived there with her two daughters and two grandchildren, one only a week old.
“My fear is that my daughter ends up getting sick because there’s no hot water,” said Ciarra, Barbara’s eldest daughter. Barbara claims they often don’t have heat or hot water “almost every day.”
Her downstairs neighbor Tysheena Rhames, a Department of Homeless Services LINC III tenant, who also has two children, agrees. “We have to call 311 every day or every other day,” she said.
Health Department inspectors have found evidence of rats in the building and the landlord, Elijah Omolade, admits to being fined $48,000 for violations in the past two years.
“The radiators need to be fixed, there’s a window-guard issue, and the fire escape is broken,” Rhames said. The landlord owes Con Edison almost $3,000 and has an unpaid water bill of over $9,000. Con Ed sent the tenants a letter notifying they would be suspending services as of Jan. 21. The landlord, Omolade, works for the New York City Housing Authority.
“You work for the city and you’re supposed to be helping us, we’re low income and you’re just taking advantage of us,” Castillo said of Omolade. “That’s the way I see it.”
Omolade, who is a housing assistant, lives in the Castile Hill section of the Bronx. We went to his home and were told, over the intercom, he was “not available” and were ordered to leave.
“I am very much aware of that subject so please leave,” someone in the household yelled.
Omolade later sent us his fuel-oil bills, proof, he says, that he does provide heat and hot water. He claims the tenants use too much hot water. As for the rats, he says an exterminator come regularly. One tenant also sent us a picture of the overflowing garbage room. The tenants say Omolade is trying to get rid of them. Barbara Castillo recently received a letter from the landlord.
“It’s telling me I have until Jan. 31st to move my stuff out or I’m going to get my stuff thrown out on the street,” Castillo read.
Omolade says he didn’t send that letter, but his signature is on the bottom. He says Barbara is behind in her rent but she showed us the money orders for the rent she says Omolade has not picked up dating back to November.
At this point, Barbara says she’d like to leave, to get a better place for her family, but she doesn’t have the money.
“So here I am. I’ve got to humble myself and go to the city and ask money to move for me children and myself,” she cried. “It’s embarrassing.”
The good news is after PIX11 got involved, a number of city agencies responded and are going to immediately assist those tenants in moving to another building. And the Housing Authority says “Elijah Omolade, a NYCHA employee, did not disclose to the Authority that he was also a private landlord. NYCHA is taking swift action on the matter.”
“We will continue to step in to perform emergency repairs to correct any immediately hazardous violations, and charge the work to the owner. We are in close coordination with the utility company to avoid any disruption of service. Our primary objective is to ensure tenants maintain essential services such as heat, hot water, and electricity, and continue to live in as safe an environment as possible,” an HPD spokesperson said.
If you’re having problems with a landlord in New York City, you can call the Tenant Protection Hotline at 917-661-4505
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi