I AM SO HAPPY TO BE BACK!!!! After nearly a week at home and another in LA, I am so, so glad to be in my favorite US city. Sometimes it’s rough to come home from vacation, but in this case I’m ready to get back in the swing of things and work.
But there’s one frustrating part of coming home. My stove, which was red tagged and disconnected last week due to a leaky burner, was supposed to be repaired on Thursday. I put the company in touch with my super, who was supposed to grant them access. However, management has informed me that the super is FAR too busy to do this, so it will be on me to stay home for a full day and hope whatever sub-par company they have hired to show up or not show up. I’ve been burned far too many times by them to trust anyone would actually show up, and the company they insist on using won’t schedule an actual time besides “between 9am and 6pm; we will call when we are headed over.” It’s unclear exactly how this will shake out and how much effort I will have to put in, but I will get my stove fixed because eating out is expensive!!!
So I just spent half an hour on the phone with 311 reporting various conditions within the building. Because fuck you, E&M Associates. You don’t get to refuse to fix everything in the apartment because the super is “too busy.”
I’m so grateful for 311 and wish we had it in Virginia. You can report issues like a lack of heat or hot water and they will reach out to the management company/landlord IMMEDIATELY to make sure it gets fixed within 48 hours. For less emergency situations, like mice, leaks, work without a permit, or a landlord who isn’t making required repairs, you can file a complaint and they will, eventually, send someone out to validate it and slap the owner with a violation.
Unfortunately, 311 isn’t great at follow-through. Today there are 22 unresolved violations on my building, before the three I filed this morning. And there doesn’t seem to be continued involvement from 311 in making sure these conditions are fixed. It feels nice to have someone listen to me explain the issues in my building and be equally horrified by what a POS the owner is, but I don’t expect many actual results. They also clear themselves of any real responsibility by telling you to go to housing court if the issue isn’t resolved.
Also, 311 doesn’t always have the information that you need. I have not been able to get definite word on whether they can insist I be home in order to have work done, NOR whether they should have reported that the apartment below me had bed bugs. I’m now absolutely terrified and about to dump poison all over my apartment, because while I do not think I have bed bugs, I’m now all freaked out about it. COOL. THANKS!
BUT 311 is especially great for things other than arguing with your landlord. If you have your car in NYC, it's the easiest way to know whether meters and street cleaning are in effect, whether schools are open, info about trash and recycling, even whether the trains are delayed (hint: yes). I have the 311 app on my phone and use it fairly often for basic living-in-New-York info. 311
The actual real estate value is about requirements for having a superintendent in your building. I’ve been dealing with “the super is too busy” as an excuse for delays on work (or often failing to do it at all) for way too long.
If you live in a building with 9 or more apartments in NYC, you are entitled to one of these three options:
1. The owner of the building can provide the work himself if he lives in the building.
2. The owner can hire a super who lives either in the building or within one block.
3. The owner can have a super and a 24/7 custodial/management service available with its information clearly posted in the lobby of the building.
I have none of these things: the owner lives far offsite; the super lives nowhere near my building; and my lobby is devoid of information about who I can contact after hours (management is closed and the super doesn’t answer his phone).
You may be in a similar situation to myself. Many management companies overwork their employees in order to save money. For you it’s a home but for them it’s a business and their bottom line.
My management company (Galil, and NEVER move into one of their buildings) tries to walk the line between not exactly refusing to do work, but makes tenants wait for ages and then does a subpar job, always citing the super being overworked. I was friends with my previous super, and he told me at one point that they had him in charge of 10 buildings. I can’t say for sure if that is true, but I know it was more than one and definitely more than he could handle.
As proof positive of this, in 2016 E&M Associates, which owns both my building (under an LLC) and Galil Management (the shit management company that provides services for the building), was sued for allegedly making supers work 80+ hour weeks for $3.45 an hour and housing them in unsafe conditions. I read the court’s 2017 decision, and the supers claims were validated. They are currently reaching out to all relevant superintendents, porters, etc. to file a class action lawsuit against E&M and its owners.
So if you live in a building where your super is clearly overworked and never has time to come fix things, make sure that the legal requirements are being met. If not, you should report it to 311. And probably call me as well.