The owner of a troubled Hartford housing complex was supposed to go before a judge Tuesday, but he was a no-show. It’s just the latest in a sequence of setbacks for the tenants at Barbour Garden Apartments.
“They’ve stepped up. Is it enough? Absolutely not,” said Hartford Fire Marshal, Ewan Sheriff.
Sheriff said after an arrest warrant was issued for Martin Rothman, of Adar Hartford Realty, LLC, owner of Barbour Garden Apartments, in April, repairs were made to part of the complex’s fire alarm system, but he’s only begun to tackle the pages and pages of violations the city’s charged him.
Tuesday, Rothman was a no-show for the first hearing of his court case.
“They get a pass. All he do is collect the check, leave us for dead, and he just doesn’t have to show up? It’s not right, it’s not right at all,” said Shanoah Gallup, a Barbour Garden Apartments tenant.
Gallup said she’s raised her two children in the troubled housing complex for the past 13 years. She stood outside the courthouse Tuesday in protest of the living conditions she’s had to endure.
“It’s been ups and downs, for the most part, more downs than ups,” said Gallup.
She pointed to the time her crutches fell through a hole in the floor and into the apartment below and says that was just the beginning of a long list of complaints she and other tenants had.
“I don’t care how much you clean and disinfect the mold comes back, you have mushrooms, you’ve got holes in the ceiling, you’ve got mice feces all over the place,” said fellow Barbour Garden Apartments resident Tasha Jordan.
Taking a landlord to criminal court for code violates may seem rare but it’s not unprecedented in the capital city, and the mayor says you’ll be seeing a more aggressive response from the city.
“We’re sending a strong message not just to this landlord, this slumlord, but to every other property owner who is just extracting a rent, not investing in properties, and putting people at risk,” said Mayor Luke Bronin (D).
Adar Hartford Reality learned in February that it would lose its $750,000 annual federal housing contract after it failed an inspection. HUD says all of the tenants will be moved out over the next several months.
“I’ve been looking for other units but it’s not so easy to just get up and leave with children,” said Gallup.
Rothman’s attorney, Carl Porto, said his client was a no-show in court Tuesday because he doesn’t believe Connecticut has jurisdiction over him since he is a New York resident.
A judge disagreed and ordered him to appear in two weeks otherwise he will be re-arrested.
“I want him to go to jail. Honestly, I want him to live like us right now and see how it feel. Let his kids live there,” said Jordan.
Porto said Rothman was in talks to sell the property, but the sale was “derailed by HUD and local activism,” in February.
“The contract has been re-executed with the original buyer and we are hopeful for a sale which will ultimately be the salvation of this property,” said Porto. “The criminal system here has for lack of a better word, motivated the individuals behind the company to put some money into the property. Things that need to be done are being done,” Porto told the judge.
Porto said the buyer is a newly formed LLC called Hartford Preservation A, a subsidiary of Heritage Housing out of South Norwalk. David McCarthy, the presdient of Heritage Housing, told NBC Connecticut he's intersted in being part of a solution.
He said Heritage Housing had hoped to purchase the property with tenants in place, but now expects to buy it as a vacant property. If there are tenants still living there when they take over the property they plan to make immediate repairs to make it safe for the existing tenants. Otherwise, they will start a long rehab early next year. McCarthy doesn’t expect have tenants back in before 2021.
“I’m optimistic we can be part of the solution and make it a place people can be proud to live in," McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, HUD is working with the tenants to relocate them to other Section 8 housing, a process they expect to take several months.