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Tenants in problem-filled housing complex can't get answers, so Council will try

Sylvia Hampton – who has carpal tunnel, heart trouble, fibromyalgia and is diabetic – relies on FedEx or UPS to deliver prescription medicines to her door in the A.D. Price II housing development on Jefferson Avenue. But the buzzer/intercom system that allows residents to let outsiders into the apartment building is on the fritz. So she might miss the delivery.

What's more, she said, if the carrier takes the package back to the depot she has to try and track it down.

"I need my intercom. I need my medicine," Hampton said.

Gloria Swaggard thought she was having a heart attack in the middle of the night last month. She yanked the pull cord inside her apartment that residents use to call for medical help, but no help arrived, she said. That's because the small red box that’s been constantly beeping for months in the lobby has to be reset so that emergency medical personnel know which apartment to go to, tenants said.

Those are among a list of such problems at A.D. Price II, at 450 Jefferson, that are not getting resolved, residents said. There also are bedbugs, roaches and dangerously dark hallways and foyers because light bulbs are out or the light fixtures are broken, according to tenants.

The Buffalo Common Council has launched an investigation into the management company to try to sort it all out.

The three-story apartment building with 95 units was built in 2011. It belongs to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority but has been managed since last August by Shinda Management Corp., whose office at 43 Mortimer St. is just steps away from the apartments.

Yet tenants say attempts to get many of their problems resolved through either the BMHA or Shinda have been futile.

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BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett said that some of the tenants' complaints at the apartment building have been resolved, as far as she knows, but that the overall goal is much broader. Every time there is a complaint, it is BMHA's expectation that the management company deals with it and that the Housing Authority will deal with the management company if the concerns are not being properly dealt with.

"We're trying to work with the management company to get all the issues resolved," Sanders-Garrett said. "It is reasonable to expect that with the pull cord problem" for example, "Shinda would deal with issues like this. Now that these issues and concerns over basic things are growing, we're dealing directly with Shinda to address these problems."

But city lawmakers have launched an investigation of Shinda and have asked the management company to attend the Council’s Community Development Committee meeting Feb. 13 to answer questions.

“We’re hearing mixed signals of who’s responsible to do what,” said Council President Darius G. Pridgen. “I’ve heard that Shinda has said they didn’t manage some portions of BMHA, that BMHA is saying they do. So I personally have no idea.”

In order to know what questions even to ask, Council members also have requested copies of the contract between Shinda and the BMHA, as well as Shinda's New York State management license and any complaints related to Shinda's failure to address tenant concerns. Sanders-Garrett said a BMHA representative also will probably attend the Feb. 13 meeting. A voicemail message to Shinda's headquarters in Queens went unreturned. A reporter also went to Shinda's local office and left contact information with an employee, who said either the property manager or someone from the Queens office would call. No one did.

“Who’s managing the facility? Who are (residents) supposed to call? Who’s responsible for heating systems? Who’s responsible for repairing them or putting up people in hotels when those systems go?” Pridgen asked in outlining what Council members want to know.

Johnnie Jackson, president of the A.D. Price II tenant council, is cautiously hopeful about the investigation.

“Maybe something will come out of this,” she said.

Trying to get answers 

Hampton said her buzzer/intercom has not worked since she moved into the building in August 2016. She has complained and called Shinda about two weeks ago, but said the property manager hung up on her.

Swaggard said she has contacted Shinda and the BMHA about her pull cord, but it still hasn’t been fixed.

And last month Jackson took residents’ complaints to BMHA headquarters at 300 Perry St. to try to get answers and help in dealing with  myriad problems at the apartment building – including the bugs and missing lights – but to no avail.

“They took down my statement and the lady said someone will get back to me by tomorrow,” Jackson said. No one has called her back yet, she said.

Before that, Jackson said she had been calling Shinda every three or four days for help, but her efforts have been fruitless, so she finally stopped calling.

“They are ignoring any of our requests to do anything in this building,” Jackson said.

Sanders-Garrett said that BMHA contacts the property management company directly and asks it to resolve problems, but if residents are not getting satisfaction, they can always come back to BMHA and the Housing Authority will intervene.

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But that has not been the case, according to some A.D. Price residents. When told that some of the tenants said they have complained directly to the BMHA offices  and haven't even received a return phone call as promised, Sanders-Garrett said, "that's not protocol.

"Someone always gets a call back," she said. "Generally, if someone comes to BMHA executive offices to lodge a complaint, we deal with it right then and there. By the time you get to 300 Perry, that means you haven't gotten a resolution to your problem. We make a call right then and there" to the management company "or within the next few days."

Problems elsewhere, too

Shinda has been in the thick of other management problems, including at the nearby A.D. Price townhomes, where heating problems related to Shinda's management surfaced last month.

On his Jan. 19 radio program, Pridgen told listeners about some senior citizens in the townhomes who had been living without heat and hot water for weeks. One of the residents had a small electric heater on the floor in her front room and another one in the bedroom. And she had a pot of water in a slow cooker by the bathroom.

“When she went to use the restroom, she could dip the cup in the slow cooker and pour the water on her hands,” Pridgen said.

As for the heating problem, the company that manufactured the furnace is out of business, so there’s no way to get the parts, Pridgen said he was told by  Sanders-Garrett when he looked into the matter.

“So they were borrowing parts off of empty apartments … and now they have no more parts,” Pridgen said.

Pridgen said he hopes things get sorted out during the investigation of Shinda without having to resort to subpoenas, which the Council has the power to issue.

“I would hope that we would never have to use that power,” Pridgen said. “For an agency that is receiving money to take care of largely poor and working class, they should come forward and answer the questions.”

 

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