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Residents accuse owners of Bronx building that collapsed of harassment, horrible conditions

Residents of partially collapsed Bronx apartment building announce legal action against owners
Residents of partially collapsed Bronx apartment building announce legal action against owners 02:40

NEW YORK -- A group of residents from the Bronx apartment building that partially collapsed late last year announced legal action against the owners Monday.

The residents are accusing the owners of harassment for trying to force out rent-stabilized tenants, and claiming horrible living conditions inside.

There were chants of "Fight! Fight! Fight! Housing is a human right!" from the corner of West Burnside Avenue and Billingsley Terrace in Morris Heights, where a portion of the apartment building came crashing down back on Dec. 11.

READ MORE: Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson explains the importance of DOB funding after partial building collapse

Diana Vargas lived in one of the six units that collapsed. She was brought to tears Monday morning while reflecting on what her family has dealt with since then.

"We've been in the shelter, been there since December. We have not gotten no answer as to what's going on, when we're planning on returning home," Vargas said.

Vargas and dozens of other tenants are hoping a lawsuit filed Monday by the Legal Aid Society will fuel repairs needed to return home.

"There are a total of 58 immediate hazardous Class C violations that have been placed at this building," the Legal Aid Society's Zoe Menon said. "We're seeking an order from a judge requiring these owners to make lasting repairs for our clients' homes."

READ MORE: Resident of collapsed Bronx apartment building says he returned to find his unit ransacked

The lawsuit is against the landlords of 1915 Billingsley Terrace, along with the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

"What does it mean to have these laws on the book when the inspector class of the city of New York has been decimated? Five hundred fewer Department of Buildings head inspectors since last year," City Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez said.

"We are demanding the owner do all the repairs necessary to lift the vacate order and allow the vacated tenants to return to their homes," Menon said.

While vacate orders for majority of the units have been lifted, tenants say many remain at shelters in fear of unsafe living conditions. According to the Legal Aid Society, eight units remain under a vacate order, including the home of 32-year-old Ivan Schoop.

"A lot of us are still in displaced shelters, so we're finding it very difficult to live in those conditions. Just like, we want to go back home," Schoop said.

CBS New York did reach out to both the DOB and HPD for comment but has not heard back. We also have not heard back from one of the landlords listed in the lawsuit that we reached out to earlier Monday afternoon.

HPD said since the building collapsed in December it has issued 30 violations against the landlord related to an inadequate supply of cooking gas, water leaks, peeling lead-based paint, hot water issues, and a rat infestation.

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