WXXI AM News

‘It was hell’: Tenant happy to see state invest millions in apartment building

Jul 31, 2019

447 Thurston Road is fenced off and its tenants were relocated as millions of dollars in state money is used to remodel it.
Credit James Brown WXXI

Promises are being made across the street from 447 Thurston Road. 

Tenants say the building is roach- and rat-infested, with few storm windows and no sprinkler system. Raw sewage was found there. 

But state and local officials say things are changing. It’s one of two apartment buildings in southwest Rochester being remodeled with $10 million in state money announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday.

Jameel Abdul Malik lived there for 20 years. He attended the announcement across from his old apartment.

“We shouldn’t have to live through that,” said Abdul Malik. “I was a housekeeper. So I know about cleanliness. It wasn’t a clean, safe environment. It was hell.” 

Abdul Malik and dozens of other tenants cried out for action and went on a rent strike last year. 

“It wasn’t kept,” said Abdul Malik. “They didn’t keep the corridors clean, everything was falling apart -- windows, doors.”

“They got criminals walking in the building, because they would kick the doors in. It was just terrible. It was a place that no one should have to live.”

The city of Rochester, the state of New York, Monroe County and several other organizations responded to their claims. Megan Houppert is managing the project for Home Leasing, which is remodeling the 63 apartments. After seeing the conditions in the building, she said the company had to get involved.

“The first time we walked through this building, it was emotional to believe that families were living in these conditions, and I think that’s really what motivates us to get involved,” said Houppert. “I think that after walking the building and sitting down and talking to the residents and realizing what people were living in, everybody was motivated to move quickly.”

Houppert said they’ve relocated the tenants as new drywall, windows, appliances, heating, and other amenities are added. 

“It’s difficult to stay in some other living situation for nine months, but we’re hoping that they stick it out with us, so that they can return back to the homes that they were in before,” she said. “When they come back, I think they’ll be completely amazed with what they are coming back to.” 

Houppert said that any returning tenant will pay the same rent as before for a fully remodeled apartment.

That’s something Abdul Malik is looking forward to.

“I’m going to live here, yeah,” Abdul Malik added. “I’ve been here 20 years. I’m comfortable.”