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With an absentee corporate landlord, Upper Manhattan tenants unite to demand repairs

(GOTHAMIST) David Brand, March 8, 2023

The owner of at least 50 mostly rent-stabilized buildings in northern Manhattan has stopped making mortgage payments on some of its properties, leaving residents in limbo as they demand better conditions and immediate repairs.

Tenants in more than two dozen of the buildings are organizing to push the management company to mend long-standing problems and to have a say in their living arrangements as politicians suggest a nonprofit could take over down the road.

About 80 residents across at least 27 buildings packed a Harlem community center late last month, describing similar experiences in their apartments owned by Sugar Hill Capital Partners or run by its affiliate Tri-Hill Management: fired supers, yearslong gas outages and broken front doors among them.

“There’s an African saying: working together, the ants move the elephant,” said Donna Chandler, a former government worker who has lived in her Washington Heights apartment for 72 years.

But the elephant, Sugar Hill Capital, appears set to move on. Court records show that the company stopped making mortgage payments on some of its buildings and faces multiple foreclosures on properties it purchased just five years ago.

Sugar Hill Capital bought buildings throughout northern Manhattan just months before tenant protection laws limited its ability to raise rents and deregulate stabilized apartments. Less than three years later, a company official was ranked as New York City’s worst landlord, with buildings accounting for hundreds of housing code violations.

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