Tenants of Ulster apartment complex say new landlords are awful

Sunset Garden (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Renters at Sunset Garden Apartments in Ulster are speaking out about numerous maintenance and billing issues they say they’ve had to deal with since the 217-unit complex was purchased by New York City-based E&M Management in March.

During a meeting of the Ulster Town Board on Thursday, Nov. 1, two Sunset Garden residents spoke during the public comment period about some of their concerns. It began as a discussion about how tenants are facing what they believe to be questionable water and sewer charges, but they made it clear there were plenty of other concerns as well.

“This is a much broader issue than just the water and sewer charges,” said Town Supervisor James Quigley III. “It ranges to maintenance issues and so forth.”

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E&M Management purchased Sunset Garden at 45 Birch Street and Lakeshore Villas, a 151-unit property in Port Ewen, from Morgan Communities in March for $44 million, expanding a local portfolio which also includes Kingston Waterfront and 30 Black Creek Road in Highland. According to the E&M Management website, most of their other properties are in Nassau County and Far Rockaway, a Queens neighborhood not far from their headquarters in Lawrence. E&M Management did not respond to queries for this article from the Kingston Times. 

At the Nov. 1 town board meeting, Barbara Rice said the problems began almost immediately after E&M took over Sunset Garden, saying that most tenants feel they’re in no position to complain for fear of not having their leases renewed.

“Not five minutes from here we have 357 residents who are literally terrified to come here and speak,” said Rice. “We have been intimidated. We have had our leases absolutely violated. Myself, I had no air-conditioning for most of the summer, although I continue to pay my nearly $1,200-a-month [rent] faithfully. I am in what is in my lease called a no-smoking building, and that means not just in common areas, but clearly stated throughout the apartments, etc. … Now they have brought in a lot of cigarette smokers. It’s throughout the building. It comes through all of our ventilation systems. I have asthma. I have not been on medication in six years. Now I’m on a respirator at night. I’ve called them. I’ve tried to get help. They have said there’s nothing they can do.”

Rice and others spoke about two specific representatives of E&M Management: Yitzhak “Yitz” Horowitz, identified on the company’s website as director of property management; and Richard Thompson, who is not listed on the E&M website, but was identified by town officials as the Sunset Garden property manager.

Rice said she’d reached out to Horowitz when her air-conditioned stopped functioning over the summer and said she was told she should get a lawyer. Rice added that after having no air-conditioning during the hottest months of the summer, she had to fight to get her heat fixed when temperatures recently dipped.

“It was 36 degrees outside,” Rice said. “It took me close to two weeks to get heat. I only got it by calling the Ulster County Health Department, who then contacted Richard Thompson. It was 48 hours later that I got heat.”

Another tenant, Juanita Velazquez-Amador, said the problems are widespread, both in apartments and across the common areas as well.

“We have holes in all the walls in every hallway,” said Velazquez-Amador during an interview with the Kingston Times. “Children can step up there, you trip, your hand falls in the hole, you can get electrified. People are living with black mold. We’ve got rats. We’ve had all this going on ever since they took over.” 

‘Matters of infestation’

The town’s building inspector, Kathryn Moniz, said there have been so many issues at Sunset Garden since March that she’s had to devote an entire day each week to walking the common areas and, when accessible, apartments.

“I have matters of infestation, both rats and roaches,” said Moniz. “I have floors that are lifting. We’ve had sewer backups that were not taken care of like they’re supposed to be, which led to an issue of sanitation. We have handrails in common halls that serve no purpose because one is attached at the top but not at the return. I have big, gaping holes in the hallways that I’ve asked to be fixed because it’s a fire issue. They’ve taken out a laundry facility, and now I think there’s one for the whole complex. We have lighting issues.”

Moniz added that the property’s owners hadn’t effectively responded to the winter storm which swept across the Hudson Valley last week.

“They did not plow and they did not clear the sidewalks until very, very late in the day,” Moniz said. “We have elderly people that could be visiting a tenant or living there, and that’s not good. We had people who couldn’t get out to go to work.”

Another tenant, Laura Hartmann, has lived at Sunset Garden for 11 years. When her lease ended in July, she was not offered a new lease and has instead been living there on a month-to-month basis. Hartmann and other tenants said they believe this has created an atmosphere where some residents are afraid to complain about maintenance issues in fear of facing reprisals via eviction. That atmosphere, said Hartmann, was not in place when Morgan Communities owned Sunset Garden.

“I don’t think any landlord is perfect,” she said. “But the really great thing about [Morgan] that we don’t have now is they had a staff of two people that were here six days a week. They helped create the community here. When we had maintenance requests we would just go to the office and they would get them done. They were responsive to us, and it creates a very different dynamic. And we desperately miss that here. This company that is here now has a very different philosophy about addressing maintenance requests in that they don’t like to do it.”

Moniz said her office has seen its focus on issues at Sunset Garden go from zero-to-60 since E&M came to town.

“Before they purchased this complex I never had a complaint from Sunset Garden at all,” she said. “And I’ve been here almost six years.”

Little cooperation

And despite the prevalence of orders to remedy composed by her department, Moniz said she hasn’t had a great deal of success in getting the owners of Sunset Garden to comply.

“I devote a whole day each week to going through these things, but I can’t seem to put a stop to any of it or get them to respond quickly,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’m really surprised because I’ll usually gain compliance pretty quickly because I’ll work with you. But it does not seem to me that they’re even attempting to address the issues we have.”

Moniz added that some issues, like dumpsters used for residential trash being overfilled with debris from apartment renovations, have been taken care of. But she said that was only a small fraction of the problems she’s tried to bring to E&M’s attention.

“When I make the phone call to Rich [Thompson], he tells me he’ll take care of it,” Moniz said. “But I’ve seen issues like one apartment where the rain comes through the window that I’ve asked him to take care of, and sent an order to remedy to the owners, and it still has not been addressed.”

Water billing concerns

At the Nov. 1 meeting, tenants said water and sewer fees have begun being added to month-to-month rent bills, but they questioned how they were being calculated with single meters for each building rather than individual meters for each unit.

“What they’re saying to us is that they’re taking their full water bill and they are dividing it up by apartment depending upon how many people are on the lease,” said Hartmann. “Which is not fair, because what about the common areas?”

Councilman Eric Kitchen, a realtor with Win Morrison, said he believed the water billing method being used by E&M is illegal.

“In my real estate and rental experience, this is not allowed,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with incidents like this for many years. You live in an apartment with maybe one other person, and let’s say there’s three or four or five living in a bigger apartment in the same building, how are those costs being broken up? I don’t believe there’s a legal basis in my experience that this is even, should be allowed. I believe it’s illegal. There’s no way they can determine your usage without a meter. I might take two showers a day, you might take one, because I sweat more than you. There’s no way to come up with an exact figure.”

Rice said that she was told by Thompson that Sunset Garden is trying to appeal to younger tenants in the future.

“I was told by Richard that they wanted millennials only,” Rice said. “They had no interest in anyone else being in there. They wanted no one that was home during the day, no one who didn’t have a job.”

Get ’em out

Rice, whose lease expires at the end of December, said that since E&M took over, Sunset Garden has begun losing its appeal to longtime residents, many of whom have simply moved on rather than deal with the issues those who’ve stayed have faced.

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“My building sits with four empty units out of 12,” Rice said. “People are moving to Florida, people are moving in with relatives, they’re doing anything to escape what’s going on. There’s no housing for us. We don’t want to leave this area. This was home. And they have taken over.”

Kitchen said the Hudson Valley has recently been experiencing a housing boom brought on by the kind of tenants Rose said E&M is seeking for Sunset Garden.

“There used to be older retirees moving up here or looking for second homes,” Kitchen said. “What I’ve been seeing for the last year going on here is a lot of young people are moving up here from the city, and they’re buying up everything. I’m seeing landlords in Kingston that have given their tenants notice that they have to get out, because they’re putting these houses on the market and they’re selling in 24 hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing. But there is a downside to that. Now you have a lack of housing for local people that have been a part of this community for years.”

Moniz said that she has recently begun meeting with groups of Sunset Garden tenants to assure them that the building department is on their side. She added that her office is hopeful that the owners of Sunset Garden will rectify the many issues she’s brought to their attention before it becomes a legal matter.

“If something has been taken care of we’ll close out an order to remedy,” she said. “But we’re coming really close to summonses to appear at our local justice court, and at that time there can be a fine imposed.”

There are 16 comments

  1. Calvin Nemo

    They are absentee slumlords. Long-term residents have had many problems, and the article would double in length if all the issues were listed. I called about an emergency on behalf of someone’s safety, and they put me on hold. Several buildings have flooding issues, and some people had to vacate to motels, but the management would only pay for a couple of nights even though their apartment was unlivable. The Department of Health must be getting paid off. Yes, people are afraid of retaliation. Of course, E&M may not be competent enough to retaliate properly.

  2. Karen Bischoff

    I live in sunset gardens for 12 yrs. sunset gardens has gone down hill. Disgusting care of property. I cannot believe lack of care this fall season. So snow comes it is a mess. Drains are covered with leaves. Mushy mess. Snow comes plows do no. Smaller plow backs all leaves against handicapped spots. In past our complex was cleaned so we can get our to work. And you come home and clean. We have 2 cars abandoned for 1 year. We have nothing. Do not be a wistulblower. You will get eviction notice. Shame on this company.

  3. Out Of Ulster

    Uh, like, they are called “torts” and subject to fines.

    If the new owner paid $44 million, why is the property on the assessment roll at $3 million?

    “Taxi?”

  4. Adam

    Being a long time resident, I find it funny that this article states that these issues all started in March when the new owner bought it – as if we had no issues before!! and everything was perfect, I have been dealing with this for four years now! its nothing new, I just hope they renew my lease and take care of some of the issues!

    1. Allison

      Granted the new owners inherited a mess, but it is my understanding that the holes, referred to in the article by Rice, were created during construction by E&M. Also, E&M was aware of issues with its purchase and the problems thereof. That does not excuse them for not making repairs or not accomplishing them in a timely fashion. Apparently, there is only one Supervisor, who oversees all 4 complexes with a small skeleton crew and the offices tenants once used to fill out a work order repair sheet are closed. With that in mind, it does not seem optimistic that repairs can be done. E&M needs to hire competent staff and more of them. I truly wonder if anyone in rhe main Lawrence office, besides the property/owner manager known as Isaac, has seen the real issues at each of the complexes. It could be an eyeopener. At any rate, much luck to you!

  5. Anonymous

    The sewage problems were way worse when Morgan owned the property, Since E and M management took over they replaced the sewage pipes that were BROKEN from roots from the trees with new and bigger pipes, Morgan did not replace any sewage pipes that were broken and instead would call Lady Rooter, or JSP plumbing to snake the man holes or get the jet to clear the clog, after years and years of backups in the laundry rooms of building 19,16,15,14 & 12, and 20 its strange E and M is getting this the S!&$” end of the stick, this happened every 2 weeks for years, with a $800 bill every 2 weeks for about 5 years they were paying lady rooter and jsp why would they not rectify the problem, yet E &M has fixed the problem, thank you Rich for addressing the biggest problem that Morgan refused to fix for the 6 years they owned Sunset, trust me it wasn’t fun for me or my other coworkers cleaning up sewage backups in the laundry rooms with shop vacs every 2 weeks because the owners of Morgan communities refused to put money into fixing the Sewer lines, E and M fixed the problem in less than 6 months , they did what Morgan refused to do in 6 years………

  6. Allison

    E&M needs to do what is right. No doubt that the company inherited a mess with the acquisition of Sunset Gardens & Lakeshore Villas, but that’s no excuse for not making repairs or fixing things in a timely fashion. It is also my understanding that E&M created the holes, Rice referred to in the article, during construction. Residents at Lakeshore Villas tell me that their lighting situation is hazardous & that many are without outside lights due to construction. I have also heard that repairs at Kingston Landing, which can include something like a simple broken window, are not being done. In checking, I found that one lone Superintendent oversees all four, E&M rental complexes in Ulster County. The offices used by tenants to lodge repair issues are closed. A Lakeshore tenant told me that telling Supt. Richard Thompson about the repair needed is ineffectual, because he’s always out on another job & responds with, I’LL GET TO IT. Texting him doesn’t seem to work, nor does calling the Lawrence, NY, main office. Sadly, pristine & scenic Ulster County is becoming prey to a monster, & E&M is gaining a reputation here as a SLUM LANDLORD. Do we really want such in Ulster County? Maybe that is a question for county executives and Mike Hein’s office. This mess needs to stop, now.

  7. JamaicaonHudson

    More shenanigans from Monsey & Co. FYI, they do this all over the state. What ‘folk here need to understand is that they’re attempting to run people out to rent to higher paying tenants. It’s a scam which actually is quite detrimental to the community as a whole.

    Lakewood, NJ is a high-priced slum. All due to letting a few bad developers in…Got to be careful who you allow to develop…Just sayin’.

    1. R A M

      So true. You got to the motive and pretty quickly. I live in a multi unit building and clearly see the trending. Our on site maintenance guy spends most of his time flipping apartments. This is a non smoking property however smoking has become intelligence and intelligence is smoking, all overlooked. Trending the new millennials thinking.

  8. Konrad Kurze

    a 2 bedroom apartment is about 1300 a month, not including the water and sewer ripoff, for that, we get to live in roach and rat infested slums. Morgan wasn’t perfect, but we didn’t have the kind of infestations we’re seeing now. 4 years having never seen a roach, and now we have to spray bleach and buy roach traps ourselves as we were finding them in the kitchen almost daily. They finally have an exterminator coming once a month to squirt bait in the cupboard hinges., but still seeing roaches every so often, and the rats run across the parking lot in broad daylight. we also had a major tick problem this past summer, including one of the APARTMENTS infested with ticks. Morgan used to spray the property once a month in the warmer seasons, that seemed to prevent alot of pest issues, E&M did not. Morgan would get the bulk of snow cleared up early enough, you could get to work, and by the time you get home, the rest would be gone. this year we had to shovel the sidewalks from our buildings out just to get to our cars. and there are stll piles of leaves everywhere. the office and staff with Morgan was great in how quick to respond they were. if the problem is one guy to run four properties, and a skeleton crew, maybe hire a super for each property and full COMPETENT crew for each? make it worth the $1300-1700 you expect us to pay.

  9. county tax payer

    Carol Smith is the head of the Ulster County Health Department. Give them a call and have her come over?
    Bert Gullnick is the head of Finance and Taxation department. He should come to, as the tax rate on assessed values in the county is the same for commercial lodging services as it is for non-commercial housing, Homestead vs. Non-Homestead not withstanding.

  10. Tenant

    There are issues however, a lot of these issues, were here for many years. Some of the tenants think they should be waited on hand and foot, there are problems, but they are working on them. Some tenants have lied and made up stories, and try to ruin people’s life, and use and make up things to take the issues off of the tenant and complain about staff, there has been no sexual misconduct . The tenant making up the issues on sexual conduct, was told that she must clean up after her pets, She claims that she is scared for her daughters, really . When you do things illegal and not take care of your own apartment , and or your pets, people around that tenant complain on the SMELL , coming from your apartment .When you owe rent you have to pay, Some tenants also receive help with their rent, a lot of tenants have misused the system. Tenants letting others stay or live in their apartments, again not cleaning your apartment has brought roaches, tenants just throwing their trash instead of putting the trash into the dumpster, and now you see trash all over . Smoking is one of problems , and some tenants don’t give a dam, You have tenants that have been told to clean up and take care of their pets letting them go to the bathroom on their patios and flipping their cigarettes butts over the patio . I too was asked if I wanted smoking or non smoking building , I said No Smoking Building, well this was Morgan who assured me that it would be NO SMOKING OKAY NOT TRUE. There are issues but it takes time to correct all.

  11. Water front resident

    I am a resident of kingston water front for 11 years, before E and M management took over , the place was infested with drug addicts, gangs, and riots in the parking lot every Friday night. They used to make us wait 5-7 days to get our heat fixed. When E and M management and Rich took over they cleaned up all the scum, and fixed all of our numerous repairs that were neglected for years. God bless that man Rich , he comes out at all hours of the night to fix heat and other issues. In the winter he’s out here at 6 in the morning clearing sidewalks and comes back later in the night to make sure everything is good and safe , he’s been a true blessing to our community. He repaired all of the outside lighting, repaired all the doors and painted the hallways, installed brand news washers and dryers, and always does an excellent job with landscaping 🙂. when I called rich about a riot going on in the parking lot , rich took care of the situation and called the police for the safety of his residents. God bless you Rich don’t feed into the haters

  12. Pam

    I’ve lived in Hudson valley landing apartments for 6 years & since E&M took over it’s been awful!! They’ve raised our rent (another raise is happening in the new year).
    My fridge has been leaking for a year, I’ve reported it 4 times, nothing has been done! There’s surface mold under the rotting boards of my sinks, & after having a sink hole leaking water for a little under 2 months the bush they ripped up to fix it is still sitting next to the parking space after 2 weeks!!

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