Monday, March 30, 2009

We work hard for the money....

Some New Yorkers are taking this time of lay offs as a way to start up a small business. But for those who don’t have the talent of designing jewelry or handbags (shout outs to Endless Noise) some options may include selling your hair, sperm, or eggs.

The Sperm Bank of NY has confirmed an increase of up to 25% in men selling their sperm.

People on are making up to $2000 bucks for selling their hair.

Also for those of us who enjoy reading the free AM NY or the Metro during our expensive commutes in the city, you’ll notice those Fertility Center ads getting bigger and bigger. The things we’d do for $8000 - $10,000…..


I read an article in the AM NY last Friday about angry New Yorkers. During these hard and controversial times it’s no shock that the vocal residents of NYC would protest about the AIG bonuses, cuts on schools and hospitals, and of course my favorite topic the MTA far hikes. Which by the way I’ve thought about a bike but being that my apartment is too small to store it and it’s still freezing outside so I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ride anyway I think I’ll stay away from that idea. I’m feeling angry already so let me just get to the point….

New Yorkers are angrier than ever and it’s not healthy! The AM article quoted a psychotherapist who confirmed that our anger can easily turn to an increase in blood pressure and lead to cardiovascular disease.

So here’s the deal, lets remember to take some time and say “wooosah” during our day. I’ve combined a list of personal tips and some from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

1. Exercise/Yoga: you don’t have to pay for it, there’s a ton of stuff online and even programs on cable television that can instruct you on things to do
2. Hang out with friends J I’ve been blessed to have some awesome friends and I’d be willing to lend them
3. If you’ve been laid off, take some naps in between job hunting and filling out your Unemployment Benefits application
4. Work on meditation and breathing patterns, you can get more info on this online
5. Eat healthy and drink lots of water
6. Go to the library and get some books…they even have DVDs nowadays so get a movie while you’re at it

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Latino Church Taking Over the Heights?

July 2007

“Salvo siempre salvo,” [saved always saved] shouts Moises Martinez, 34, as he stands on the corner of 207th and Broadway holding up a poster with a white poster with a logo in the center similar to that of a government seal.

In a community such as Inwood it’s quite common to encounter members of Catholic churches handing out prayers as people walk by. Martinez however, hands out pamphlets with a picture of a man wearing a suit. As he extends his arm to hand out the information he bears the number 666, considered by many the mark of the devil, on his right arm. The man on the cover of the pamphlet is Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda; he is Martinez’s leader and is praised for being both Christ and the anti-Christ.

“We’re not pastors or a religion, we collaborate directly with Jesus, we’re a way of life,” said Martinez. “Religion confuses people and churches tell lies; that’s why Catholics and all the other religions are heading in the wrong path.”

In communities mostly populated by Dominican Catholics, such as Washington Heights and Inwood, members of Growing In Grace face a lot of rejection. For example, Miranda was recently banned from speaking in Dominican Republic and still these members, who are mostly former Catholics, proclaim that they are thriving as people continue to convert. They remain positive about their membership increasing and seem nonchalant about negative responses from Catholics.

Catholics disagree with Growing In Grace’s idea of expansion and conquering. Some referred to the organization as a cult and say that it poses no threat to the Catholic faith.

It was in Florida that the movement began in 1991. Miranda proclaimed that he represents the second coming of Jesus. That year Martinez visited Miami, where he decided that after 18 years of being a Baptist it was time for a change. Today, Growing In Grace has spread to other countries and cities, including the establishment of an education center in Inwood where they practice what they say is a science. It was founded in 2004 by Martinez who is a Coca-Cola truck driver. “We started with only six members and now have 40 just from Manhattan; we also have a lot of members from Queens and we often meet in Corona,” said Martinez.

Each Wednesday members watch a live broadcast from Miami. They have the option of gathering at their local education center where a projector displays the live web cast service, including a weekly message from Miranda, or they can watch it form their homes.

Martinez says that people, especially Catholics, have reformed because they’ve had an awakening and decided to make the right change in their lives. “We believe that there is no sin; sin was eliminated at Jesus’ crucifixion and we were reminded of this in 1973 when the Apostle [Miranda] received a revelation from God instructing him to tell the world that there is no sin and that people have been deceived.”

And some members seem to have a sense of relief after their conversion to Growing in Grace. Alonzo Castillo of Corona, 55 said, “Catholics pass on their beliefs from generation to generation and it’s turned into something hereditary, not real.” His point of view of the Catholic Church began to change after listening to Miranda. He began to research several pieces of literature that questioned Catholicism. He then concluded there was no point in following the sacraments embedded in Catholicism because there is no sin; therefore there is no need for Baptism or Communion.

Miranda’s followers say that they are blessed and saved, unlike those who refuse to listen and reject their beliefs. They refer to those people as “Satan’s children.” Members say they expect adversity especially amongst Latin communities. And even as some members have lost their jobs after employers became terrified when seeing “666” tattoos, their loyalty is placed first.

“Our spirit tells us that this is what we should follow, when I first heard him [Miranda] I new instantly that he is the Lord; the Lord needed a body and flesh to carry his word,” said Gladys Alvarez of Corona, 53. Most of Alvarez’s family has decided to convert, although several still remain part of the Catholic faith. “They don’t agree now, but soon they will, for those who haven’t it’s just too bad for them, they’ll never be saved.”

Catholic residents of Washington Heights on the other hand say that Growing In Grace poses no threat to their community. “It’s a venue, an easy way out of the Catholic Church’s persecutions. This notion of no sin is ideal to them because they don’t have to repent for anything,” said Maria Minaya, 45, director of religion education at Incarnation School in Washington Heights. Minaya says that those who converted were never truly educated in Catholic doctrines. “Some people send their kids to perform sacraments but don’t understand why, they simply want to be part of a culture and that is not what being Catholic is about.”

Minaya said that members of Growing In Grace contradict themselves when claiming that Catholicism is incorrect and deceptive because they don’t question their own leader’s actions. “He [Miranda] came out of left field and is shown on the news traveling on a private jet, how much credibility can he honestly have?”

Former professor of theology and philosophy Menejildo Candelario of Washington Heights, 58, said he believes that it’s easy for members of Growing In Grace to accept the teachings because they can actually see a being rather than believing in an image. Candelario, who taught at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre Y Maestra (PUCMM), in Santiago, DR, also said that rejection makes them feel competitive. “Competition is something humans need and sometimes we like feeling adversity because it represents a challenge and makes us feel alive; those who have converted were unnoticed at work, home or within society as a whole, now they feel they’re getting attention.”

Some Catholics feel that the representation of both Christ and an anti-Christ in a single being is irrational.

“It’s silly because for someone to say they represent both Christ and the anti-Christ is insane; there’s just no logic in that and the bible makes no indication of such a being,” said Reverend Daniel Kearny of the Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, in Washington Heights. In his 95 percent Latino parish, mostly consisting of Dominicans there has been no interest in Growing In Grace, nor have questions been posed regarding them.

Candelario said he believes there will never be a significant increase in their numbers because Miranda continues to confuse people. “Presenting himself as both Christ and the anti-Christ is unstable, plus most people in the community are naturally scared of the devil’s images so they’ll never feel fully comfortable,” he said.

Fox News says going to the dentist not as scary and more significant

Today I saw a Fox News Extra report on the preservation of stem cells inside wisdom teeth for research. It was a good and informative piece that featured a dentist dedicated to this research because of his son’s illness. Check it out on Fox or log on to Stem Save for more info on how this works. I guess people like Senator Ralph Hudgens can sleep better knowing this option is in the works since he compared stem cell research to human experimentation in Nazi Germany. Unless of course the new argument will be that we should preserve our wisdom teeth for the Tooth Fairy to grant us a bail out.

Obama Blogs

President Obama announced yesterday that he will be taking questions from people (when I say people I mean non-journalists) via the White House website. Read more on the new White House initiative Open For Questions and sign up if you’re interested. He’ll be answering them on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Santo Domingo The New Miami?

During my recent trip to DR I noticed all the new buildings being constructed in my parents’ neighborhood. Just a year ago empty lots surrounded my parents high rise apartment. Now everywhere you turn a new building is almost complete. And the crazy part? All the apartments and penthouses are sold!

So what’s going on with real estate in Santo Domingo? People have been investing here, especially in the Bella Vista neighborhood. It’s become a popular residential and vacation spot. It’s mostly foreigners investing but we all know the economic crisis is well spread around the globe. After reading the local papers, watching the local networks, and speaking with residents a popular theory is drugs and money laundering.

Now here’s the funny part. President Leonel Fernandez has said that Santo Domingo should be “the new Miami.” There’s even a huge plaza being built, with an American name nonetheless, modeled after shops on South Beach. I found the whole “new Miami” concept ironic since Miami became a world renowned hotspot after the drug trade of the 70s and 80s. (Watch Cocaine Cowboys for more info on this). Today DR has the largest drug trade it’s seen in years. Big names like Quirino Paulino have made that possible.

Now this is just a theory….it’s either that or foreigners investing in DR need to teach Americans how to manage their money and not depend on the fine print in bail out contracts to get bonuses.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Day In Ojo De Agua

I was recently visiting the parental units in Dominican Republic and we took a drive to Salcedo. I asked Dad to stop at the Museo de las Hermanas Mirabal and we ran into his old pal, Jaime David Fernandez Mirabal, nephew of the revolutionist and heroic Mirabal sisters who were murdered during the Trujillo regime. Jaime David is former VP of the island and is the current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources.

It was an unexpected and nice reunion. Jaime David has recently achieved the beautification of small towns like Salcedo by painting murals representing the country’s history.

Cyclone Sidr Aftermath: Can Bangladesh Handle Another Disaster?

March 2008

Four months after one of the most devastating natural disasters struck the southern edges of Bangladesh, the country is still under reconstruction. And preparation for the next one is crucial.

Cyclone Sidr, the furious storm that swept through the Bay of Bengal packing winds of over 100 miles an hour, affected more than 8.7 million people, destroyed some 564,000 homes, and exterminated over 2.2 million acres of crops according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Emergency relief in food, shelter, water, sanitation, and agriculture was immediately expedited. With the World Food Programme (WFP) working with the Bangladesh Air Force and facilitating helicopter airdrops of food, Direct Relief International (DRI) providing $1.2 million worth of medical supplies, and the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) $14.7 million, life-saving relief assistance was readily available.

“In addition to assistance from NGOs and other agencies, Bangladesh has received $100 million in bi-lateral donations for Cyclone Sidr,” said Stephanie Bunker of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

But aside from rapid relief efforts, prevention and preparedness must be a topic at the top of any agenda, especially with extreme weather anticipated as a result of human-induced climate changes. According to the latest human development report by the U.N. Development Programme, sea level rises of only 40 cm in the Bay of Bengal can increase the frequency of cyclones, in turn, breaking down agricultural systems and triggering a mass displacement of some10 million, already poverty stricken people. And until the political and financial state reaches a certain level of stability, preparation systems will remain inadequate.

“When there is a disaster all NGOs are essential at the moment but we have to do better than that, we have to work in prevention methods so when there is a disaster the impact is less,” said Brigitte Leoni, Media Relations Officer of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in Geneva. Leoni went on to explain that those living below poverty lines – which counts for more than 50 percent of the Bangladeshi population – encounter grueling experiences in maintaining their livelihood after a natural disaster. “Villagers have suffered because of loss of employment and the demise in crops.”

Humanitarian agencies have always assisted in immediate relief, helping with vaccinations, food, shelter, but in the case of Bangladesh, what needs to be done is integration of risk reduction methods. Leoni proposes that homes be built in higher grounds, making villages more resilient. “Even the poor are able to put up shelters and take measurements like building homes higher; if they know there is going to be a flood, they also have the option of going to warehouse type shelters where they can take crops and animals, this way if disaster occurs they can salvage some means to re-develop their livelihood,” said Leoni.

But along with the political situation in the Bangladesh, the economy remains unstable and the government sometimes fails to issue instructions on distribution of funds and supplies. Such developments as the one Leoni referred to can be costly and agencies are unable to provide all resources to construct sufficient locations.

“Government officials are still working for recovery. There are still some 500 people displaced from their homes; the government is trying their best to help the affected people but they do not have enough money to do so perfectly,” said Lovlu Ansar, Executive Editor of Thikana.

Government officials have made an effort towards the reduction of vulnerability. According to the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme in Bangladesh, officials have attended post graduate disaster management training courses offered and funded by the Australian Agency for International Development in Melbourne, Australia since 2006. Remote communities in the south-western coast must now be exposed to this education.

The everlasting gender inequality in the villages, however, can pose a problem. Women are mostly affected by disasters because they do not participate in disaster discussions and decision making. Leoni said that swimming lessons for instance, are a good start at opening doors for women in villages to engage in disaster education. “The main issue is awareness,” said Leoni.

She added that government officials should work towards providing means and knowledge for villagers to make homes safer by rebuilding away from flood planes, saving crops, and for agencies to create a well-done draining system so that water flows rather than flood occurring. “If you can prevent, then you reduce vulnerability; this is what needs to be done in Bangladesh right now.”

Violence In Bangladesh Continues To Erupt, And Women Are Still Ignored

February 2008

With Bangladesh’s interim government cracking down on crime and its military abusing their emergency powers, reporting on human rights has become prevalent. Tensions between police and opposing political activists have erupted in the past few months, leading the country into a state of emergency, postponing elections, and instructing military officials to “clean house” and eliminate corruption.

Bangladesh’s military-backed caretaker government has been targeting labor rights activists, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. Police have used the country’s state of emergency to invoke strict “rules and regulations” resulting in the arrest of many union members in the garment industry – Bangladesh’s main export, and the leading cause of women working.

Amnesty International
member, Govind Archarya, said the organization is mostly concerned about journalists’ protections since the capturing of Tasneem Khalil, a CNN news representative. Khalil was detained in Bangladesh and tortured by the military, according to a Human Rights Watch report. “It’s very shocking because he’s well known, even amongst foreigners; usually lesser known journalists are targeted, basically those who are not well connected with the outside world.

Amidst all the political chaos, it seems that there is little room for the spotlight to shine on issues concerning violence against women. And in a country where acid attacks on women – sulfuric acid as the use of a weapon to disfigure women – has been an epidemic in the past decade, cases should still be monitored and awareness spread across the entire state.

“Acid attacks are more of a domestic crime now; low income families in villages where women are not educated, it’s not happening in the city,” explained Amana Begum, who has lived in Jackson Heights for 15 years and just returned from Dhaka after a six month trip. “People don’t see it because it’s more hidden.”

A reporter of the Bangla Patrika, in Long Island, added that remote areas lack communication with the urban areas, preventing women from getting help, thus not being recognized. The accounts are not usually publicized because either people don’t go to the villages, leaving attention to be focused on Dhaka, or women are too afraid to report incidents. Ansar Lovlu said that the government would intervene in those cases but there is not sufficient communication with law and order arsenals. “Urban area authorities take action as soon as they get a complaint, the government works, administrations works, but again, that’s in the urban areas,” said Lovlu.

He said that education plays a big role in these tragedies. “Most people are illiterate and have no education in the village areas so this is the main problem; this leads to violence, when people don’t get educated this is what happens, ultimately this can be eliminated through education,” said Lovlu.

With the lack of education in the rural areas, citizens are not aware about resources available for victims of acid attacks. Women are forced to live in shame, with grotesque burns on their bodies, and sometimes are left blind and deaf. Marielly Minaya, a former intern of the Public Affairs Department at the U.S Embassy in Dhaka, said that the government isn’t fully aware of what goes on with women because they’re so involved in the “cleansing” of the streets, in preparation for the much anticipated elections. “The government’s focused on implementing curfews and fighting corruption through scare tactics and torture, this leads to the rise of organizations like RAB – Rapid Action Battalion – and leaves the issue of acid attacks behind closed doors, which is exactly how they’re happening nowadays, in homes, places of peace where women should be at ease but unfortunately are not,” said Minaya.

Although the amount of acid attacks has decreased significantly since 2003, according to an annual report by the Acid Survivor’s Foundation, the situation still haunts the country. Medical facilities in the village areas are sparse and poorly equipped, and many women are not even aware or lack the resources to receive aid or counseling. The Acid Survivor’s Foundation reported that last year approximately 180 women were attacked with acid, with motives ranging from disputes about property or money to rejection of sex or marriage. Aside from education and resources, another key issue is that people are not willing to speak on the topic.

Bangladeshis in the Jackson Heights area of Queens were reluctant to speak about human rights issues, especially in relation to violence against women and the acid attacks. Monie Fattah, an employee of JMD Clothing has lived in the U.S for 16 years. We spoke about the increase of women working and that men do not fully approve of that; when I brought up the topic of the acid attacks however, Fattah became hostile and quickly changed the topic.

Another woman at a garment shop inside the Bangladesh Plaza agreed to speak with me, even when I mentioned the violence against women; but when I referred to the acid attacks she became quite uncomfortable and requested that I exit the shop.

“It’s also a Hindu versus Muslim controversy because a lot of Hindu women are the victims so people just don’t want to get into that type of conversation. Plus, with the government pushing their clean house agenda, a lot of things go unsaid this may also be why it appears that numbers have gone down. It’s just a time where people are mostly concerned with political issues,” said Sunita Iqbal of Queens, during a phone interview.

With the elections postponed, the caretaker government continues on the road to root out corruption. Even if their tactics may have been taken out of hand, some Bangladeshis believe it’s necessary.

“We need this kind of change; acid attacks used to happen everywhere before, now it just happens in some places, mostly villages, at least it’s not happening in the city the way it used to,” said Akm Nuruzzama, who has lived in the U.S for 16 years and is the owner of Akota Grocery in Jackson Heights.

Bangladeshis in Jackson Heights who were interviewed all agreed that the abuse of power on behalf of the interim government is necessary. When asked if governmental organizations have made efforts towards preventing acid attacks in the villages most did not know or chose not to answer.

Still, the problem remains; there is an elephant in the room when mention of violence against women in Bangladesh comes up.

New York Times Anonymous Sources Project

September 2008

Last fall, Clark Hoyt, Public Editor of The New York Times, spoke to Professor Richard Wald's Critical Issues in Journalism class at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He talked about the use of anonymous sources and presented the idea of a research project to evaluate how closely reporters adhere to the newspaper's anonymous sources policy.

Drawing on his experience as the former Washington D.C. Bureau chief of Knight Ridder, Hoyt reflected the need for anonymity to protect the identity of sources who fearing reprisal might not otherwise come forward. While the device buffers against a chilling effect on the press, Hoyt also criticized hurried reporting that abuses anonymous sourcing for the sake of the big scoop.

Anonymous sources have long served as the anchors for many an investigative story. In 2005 Josh White of the Washington Post broke news of the possible detention of “ghost” prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The Post's coverage supplemented information from military documents, with the disclosures of unnamed prison guards and “Defense Department officials” to report on the illicit confinement of unlisted prisoners in Iraq by the U.S. Army and the CIA.

But as the public demands more transparency from the press, not least because of a series of recent fabricated scandals, there is a freshly growing need to provide readers with more information.

For instance, the Times article about John McCain published last February cited conversations with "former campaign associates" and insinuated the presidential candidate once had an affair with a female lobbyist. The story should have stood on the merits of questionable quid pro quo—instead, the reporters overreached with their claims, and undermined the credibility of the story.

The argument presented by critics of the article was that if reporters are going to break the rules by introducing an anonymous source, they should better communicate why information obtained and cited that way is reliable.

As a point of departure for the study, students used the policy outlined by Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in a memo dated February 25, 2004.

Under the new policy, if sources could not be identified by name and title, explanation must be given as to their authority, possible views and motivation and reason for confidentiality.

Ideally, the anonymity is not granted to sources making personal attacks, or to those without "firsthand knowledge" of asserted facts. And in the case where anonymous sources broached "less verifiable" facts potentially damaging to another to one side, corroborating sources should be used.

Anonymous sourcing can only be used as a "last resort" on stories that are particularly newsworthy, yet sensitive, in order to protect the source and maintain the public's trust.

Students read two sets of New York Times papers: The first set of 6 papers was published just before Keller issued the 2004 memo and the second set of 6 was published in the fall of 2007.

After much discussion, we agreed to document an anonymous source as one where information was attributed to someone whose identity is indiscernible to the lay reader. This includes attributions such as "sources said" or "experts said," without further description of the speaker or the reasons for granting anonymity.

A comparison of citations found in the sample sets includes the following observations:

• Ultimately 79% of anonymous sources in the Times do not meet the requirements of the 2004 memo, which was improvement from the pre-policy memo where 87% of citations were inadequate.

• Post-policy, levels of uncorroborated anonymous sources went up by 7%.

• 42% of anonymous source citations were used in conjunction with an opinion versus a statement of fact – up from 38% in the pre-policy sample.

• The daily average use of anonymous sources was cut by half after the 2004 memo was circulated.

• Also, anonymous sources were less likely to appear on the front page of the NYT in the 2007 sample, than in pre-policy 2004 set.

The students' findings were presented to top editors at the Times, including Clark Hoyt, Bill Keller and Craig Whitney, the paper's standards editor. Keller noted that he would be "more likely to use examples than the metrics," underscoring the difficulty of assessing progress on a subjective issue like anonymous sourcing and the importance of remaining flexible in judging the merits of its use.

Tenants Fight Years Long Battle Against Landlord

June 2007


For Lupe Rodriguez living most days without heat or hot water in the fall of 2001 left her with a litany of problems. Her family and neighbors were always sick because of this, she said. To make matters worse, a defective refrigerator left food to spoil, and Rodriguez was forced to eat out several times. Then there were the leaky ceilings that damaged her furniture and wooden floors.

This was the situation Rodriguez and fellow tenants say was prevalent in many of the apartments inside 38-46 Fort Washington Avenue. The buildings’ live-in super didn’t address issues because he “was not authorized to do so,” said Rodriguez. Together with her neighbor, Elba Gonzalez, Rodriguez decided it was time to unite all residents to form what would be the 38-46 Fort Washington Tenant Association.

The word was spread. Furious residents agreed the condition in both buildings were being ignored. The elevator hadn’t worked for some years and people were injured due to a faulty stairway. Stories about assaults, even the murder of one resident were attributed to lack of security in the main entrances.

Tenants called 311 – the phone number for government information and non-emergency services – to report their complaints; they listed violations and sent the completed forms provided by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to their landlord, Stahl Brothers Realty Co. “We sent out the complaints and the package came back rejected, we tried a second time and again it was rejected,” said Rodriguez. Fed up, residents initiated a rent strike.

Since then, members of the Tenant Association have been waging a long and bitter battle in Housing Court. They say they’ve gone through five different attorneys and spent more than $31,000 in legal fees. The presiding judge in the case, Gerald Lebovitz, is scheduled to visit both buildings on August 13th.

The case illustrates a common complaint in Washington Heights and Inwood. HPD reported a total of 39,453 complaints for fiscal year 2007, said Seth Donlin, spokesman for HPD.

Gentrification is a reoccurring theme in housing issues. Some residents feel that landlords purposely neglect and harass their tenants by withholding maintenance services in order to drive them out of the community because of its change in retail value.

“We have easy access to mid and downtown, and the George Washington Bridge is right there, it’s a hot area,” said Rodriguez. Many residents migrated from other countries and have lived in the area for decades. They area is peppered with rent-controlled apartments and families live within blocks of each other.

Donlin explained that when tenants can call HPD or 311 inspectors can be dispatched to apartments. Once they’ve arrived they’ll also inspect the rest of the building for further violations. “If landlords don’t correct violations by the end of the period indicated, they get notification informing them that the period has expired,” said Donlin. Depending on the severity of the problem HPD will handle the emergency repairs and bill the landlords.

Still, as building problems mounted for several years, tenants of 38-46 Fort Washington say they didn’t have a landlord to turn to. “As long as I’ve been a tenant advocate – 20 years – there have been many rent strikes in the city, this is a special case because they’ve been exploited for 15 years,” said Jeff McAdams, the attorney currently representing the tenants.

The problems began in 1993 when tenants were notified that a financial dispute arose between Stanley and Michael Stahl, owners of the property. Until the feud was resolved, properties were put under the control of the court, which appointed Paul Klein, a retired housing court Judge, as receiver of the properties, said Rodriguez. A person named Ann Spalding was listed as managing agent. Tenants said they directed their complaints and sent all rent checks to a Brooklyn Heights office in Spalding’s name. But they say calls and complaints were never addressed by the buildings’ management. It wasn’t until 2001 that they say they realized there was no office for Ann Spalding and all the rent from 1993 to 2001 was unaccounted for.

In February 2002, tenants sued Klein. The problem was finding an attorney that would go against him in court. Residents say that since Klein is a well known figure and a retired judge, many of the attorneys hired by the Tenant Association were reluctant to properly represent them. They would either adjourn or skip hearings. “We were insulted and told we didn’t have a case against Klein,” said Rodriguez. “One attorney even said we’re all crazy.”

The dispute between the Stahl brothers ended in February 2005 and Klein was removed as receiver. Tenants received notice of a new management company. Langsam Properties sent notices stating that back-rent must be paid in full, and it threatened to evict if tenants did not comply. That year, tenants signed a stipulation saying that rent was going to be paid as long as repairs would be done but they say Langsam never responded. HPD was forced to enter apartments and remove large amounts of lead.

The tenant association retained McAdams in October 2006. Small repairs like patching up holes in the walls and cracked floors started. Carbon monoxide alarms were placed in some apartments. “My alarm went off immediately after installation,” said Rodriguez. “HPD inspected and determined that there had been carbon monoxide in the apartment for the past 5 years.” Other tenants like Eduardo Pastrana say they still have chipped ceilings, sinking floors, and leaks everywhere.

Fred Stahl, now owner of the buildings, said that since 2005 he’s been actively involved in restoration. “I have striven to remove all violations and restore the building to be reasonable housing for the tenants,” said Stahl in an email. He said that in the last two years he’s installed new boilers, roofs, fire escapes and elevators.

Tenants refuse to pay back-rent because of the neglect they say the building has suffered all those years. Repairs and maintenance performed were paid out of pocket, and residents are demanding refunds. Milta Algarrez, for instance, says she spent about $30,000 in repairs to her apartment. The tenants are also demanding that floors and hallways be cleaned periodically.

Stahl, who says he wasn’t aware of complaints about negligence before 2005, has asked to meet with the tenants in order to negotiate a solution. Until then, tenants are anticipating the judge’s visit on August 13th hoping to finally reach a settlement.

Both Stahl and McAdams refused to comment further on the case before the court until they’re resolved.