New York Daily News: BROOKLYN, By Ellen Moynihan – This three-story Brooklyn apartment building is home to more rats than residents.

The vermin appear through the darkness each evening: Dozens of unwanted intruders running up and down the stairs, through the hallways — and even crawling through the windows. Tenants say the rats are to blame for the Bushwick building’s powerful stench that is detectable from the sidewalk.

“At nighttime they sound like they have a big party all over the ceiling,” said Ruth Acevedo, who lives on the second floor of the Menahan St. building with her mother, father and 20-year-old daughter. “One time I was sitting here and my mother was there, and one fell from the [ceiling] like POW! A big one.”

When the Daily News visited the site, a dead rat was lying outside. Inside, in a basement with pools of standing water, a large and very alive rat scurried past. The floor of a vacant apartment was covered in rat droppings, its bathtub filled with water where another dead rat was recently discovered.

Tenants Manuel Vazquez and Gabriela Velazquez of 309 Menahan Street – Raquel Namuche

Long-time residents at the rent stabilized property have lived with the conditions for up to 20 years. The building’s new owner, Menahan Fee Owner LLC, and management company, WayFinder LLC,which are both named in court papers,took control in August 2021. Adam Jernow is listed as a principal of WayFinder on the company’s website, though he’s not named as a defendant. Tenants say they have ignored conditions, making only cosmetic changes as the building continues to deteriorate.

Tenants in the four occupied apartments in the six unit building are on a rent strike and declined buyout offers from the landlord. A lawsuit brought by residents over the conditions is slowly winding its way through Housing Court.

“The smell causes us headaches,” said Gabriela Velazquez, who lives with her husband and daughter, 18, and son, 14. “When you open the door it hits you in the face. It’s making my children sick.

“My daughter says it’s hard for her to breathe sometimes and my son says it’s over one month he’s been getting headaches,” said the 47-year-old mom. “I thought it was only me. The conditions that we live in are no way to live, it’s not healthy for us. They want to rent but they don’t want to fix it.”

The rodents account for only four of 305 open building violations at the property, according to Housing Preservation and Development records. Others include leaks, mold, broken bathroom tiles, electrical issues, inadequate heat and floors that seem about to collapse. In the past, sewage has flooded the basement.

“Right now a big problem we have is with the bathroom,” said Acevedo, 39. “When we step in the bathroom, you can hear the floor is moving, and we’re scared.”

Acevedo recalled how the ceiling above the bathtub once collapsed while a family member was taking a shower.

Broken tiles and uneven flooring in the Acevedos’ bathroom at 309 Menahan Street in Bushwick.

Broken tiles and uneven flooring in the Acevedos’ bathroom at 309 Menahan Street in Bushwick – Obtained by Daily News

The residents attempted to force repairs through constant calls to 311 and texts and emails to the management company. But they often end up fixing the problems themselves as best they can.

“My husband put another plank of wood in the bathroom ceiling to prevent it from falling,” said Velazquez. “In the last seven months it’s started to cave in again. We take showers as quickly as possible.”

Rat droppings cover the floor of a vacant apartment in 309 Menahan Street in Bushwick.

Rat droppings cover the floor of a vacant apartment in 309 Menahan Street in Bushwick – Obtained by Daily News

Tenant Veronica Vazquez, mother to a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, recalled her husband buying a lamp due to a faulty electrical switch that made a “sparking sound” every time they flipped the light switch.

The Acevedos have been on rent strike for over three years, while the other three families stopped paying rent in October. In the fall of 2021 tenants were asked to sign letters that stated they were agreeing to “discuss a possible lease buyout”. None of them signed.

“We did this because we initially didn’t know about our rights. We started a tenant association,” said Vazquez. “We always paid our rent until we got the buyout notices. I know this is not my apartment per se but it is my home and now I am going to fight hard for it.”

This past Sunday, state Sen. Julia Salazar, Councilwoman Sandy Nurse and Assemblywoman Maritza Davila came to the building for a rally with the Ridgewood Tenants Union, tenants and supporters. The tenants returned to Housing Court on Wednesday, seeking to get repairs made immediately.

“The main thing is the condition of the building, the fact of allowing bad conditions to exist for months at a time and not fixing them is a form of harassment,” said lawyer Emily Farrell from Mobilization for Justice.

Video footage shows rats infesting a Bushwick home.

Video footage shows rats infesting a Bushwick home – Courtesy of Acevedo family

Negotiations out of court had broken down, according to Farrell.

“They just don’t believe the promises anymore,” she said.

A lawyer for the owner and management company argued in a Housing Court filing that some of the conditions alleged by tenants “do not exist, and if they existed in the past, same have been corrected.”

They also said the tenants had made accessing the building to make repairs difficult, and that some of the violations “were caused or permitted to be caused” by tenants.

Jernow did not return a call for comment from the Daily News, and an employee at WayFinder declined to provide his email address. Efforts to reach the landlord’s attorney were unsuccessful.

In addition to the impact on health and safety, residents say the conditions are also taking a mental toll.

“Right now I’m taking therapy because it’s hard,” said Acevedo. “People make fun, they say ‘How can they live there with that smell?’ It makes us feel bad. My mom used to be a babysitter but she had to stop because no one’s going to bring their baby here … We can’t live how we want to live.”

“I would like to one day open the doors to the building and see a dignified hallway and have a dignified way of living,” said Vazquez.

Top Feature Photo: A rat makes its way along the façade of 309 Menahan St in Brooklyn – Raquel Namuche