Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tenants Take Back the Neighborhood: Fight "Condozilla"

Norwood Tenants Honor Diversity, Community and Successful Year with Celebration and Performance

Thomas Circle, Washington, DC– On Sunday December 14th, 5-7 pm at the National City Christian Church, the tenants of the Norwood Tenants Association will come together to celebrate victories in organizing, and honor our diversity with a multicultural holiday party. The festivities will also include the play Condozilla, starring the children of the Norwood Apartments.

The Celebration reflects the diverse backgrounds and eclectic tastes of the residents. The festivities will incorporate elements of a 'Posada,' a traditional Latino Christmas celebration, in addition to=2 0the premiere of "Condozilla," an English and Spanish language play about the DC condo conversion craze. "It's great to see the whole building getting involved in this celebration; from the feature d music talent, to the kids starring in the play, it will be Norwood on display this Sunday" said Silvia Salazar, co-President of the tenants associati on.

What: Holiday celebration and "posada," live music, play in Spanish/English
When: Sunday, December 14, 5pm-7pm
Who: Tenants of the Norwood Apartments, Logan Circle
Where: National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Cir NW), Miller Hall
The Norwood Tenants Association launched the Norwood Cooperative Project to preserve their building as affordable housing; the holiday celebration is being planned to highlight this effort. David Fabian, co-President of the tenant's association added, "We're looking to form a cooperative because we truly value diversity here at the Norwood, as demonstrated by this multicultural celebration. Keeping our homes afford able, and securing the future of the building, will be a great opportunity to preserve quality workforce housing in the heart of Washington."

In addition, the Norwood tenants have organized other events to strengthen their community by hosting a health fair and fire prevention event with the DC Fire Department. The Norwood tenants extends special thanks to the community organizations, tenant advocacy groups, DC government agencies and elected officials that have supported their commitment to improve building conditions and to preserve the diverse community at the Norwood.

The Norwood is an 84 unit rent-controlled building in the Logan Circle neighborhood, five blocks from the White House. Our community includes diverse working families who work in the s ervice industry as waiters at restaurants, cleaning offices in downtown DC, and young working professionals. For more information on the tenant purchase and Co-op, visit www.NorwoodCoOp.org.
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Norwood Holiday Celebration & Posada

December 14, 2008
Click image to view detailed program:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Norwood Tenants Address Lack of Health Insurance

  • WHO: Norwood Tenant Association, the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs (OLA), Planned Parenthood, and the Hispanic Institute for Blindness Prevention
  • WHAT: Community Health Fair
  • WHEN: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 from 1:00pm to 6:00pm
  • WHERE: 1417 N St NW

On Tuesday, July 8th, the Norwood Tenants Association will be partnering with Planned Parenthood, Hispanic Institute for Blindness Prevention, and the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs to host a community health fair in the lobby of 1417 N Street, NW. The health fair will include free preventive eye care exams, information about HIV/AIDS prevention, and volunteers to help families and individuals sign up for DC Alliance Health Insurance.

Many kids and working families at the Norwood Apartments do not have health insurance, much like the 76,000 Washingtonians who find themselves in a similar situation despite working one or more full time jobs. However there are options for these families to obtain low cost or even free coverage through the DC Alliance Health Insurance program. The most important way to protect kids and families is to provide accurate information and access to key preventative services.

“The Norwood Tenants Association is holding this event as part of our ongoing commitment to the people in our community,” says co-President Silvia Salazar. Salazar explains that as a result of organizing, the tenants at the Norwood have learned firsthand that many fellow tenants are in need of something more than just a roof over their heads. As the tenants’ ongoing efforts to improve building conditions at the Norwood continue, the health of the community also depends upon improving access to health care services and health education.

In April 2008 the Norwood Tenants Association partnered with the DC Fire Prevention Bureau to host a neighborhood fire safety awareness event. The DC Fire Department inspected the Norwood and a neighboring apartment building, finding and replacing 48 non-working smoke detectors in the buildings. In July 2007, tenants faced over 30 days at the Norwood without a working elevator. The tenants association held a lemonade gathering to provide support and information for fellow tenants. Lemonade will be served at the health fair as a reminder that many building problems, including bedbugs and mold, persist.

The Norwood apartment building was included in the recent Washington Post series, “Forced Out,” about deteriorating rent-controlled buildings targeted for condo conversion (“The Profit In Decay” 3-19-08). The tenants of the Norwood said ‘no’ to a condo pitch by the Tenacity Group in January 2007, and instead demanded that problems be fixed ‘today.’ Tenants at the Norwood call for an end to persistent housing code violations, and remain committed to preserving affordable housing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dealing with Bedbugs: Tips

After dealing with bedbugs at the Norwood Apartments for many years, we have become unofficial bedbug experts. Despite our efforts there are still many apartments with bedbugs, and without organized bedbug extermination throughout the building, we fear it will be a long time before they are completely eradicated from the building.

Although bedbugs cannot be completely killed in one shot, if you stick to proven strategies you can win your battle with the critters.

Getting help from your building management or local exterminator should be your first step, but YOU CAN DO-IT-YOURSELF if you're not getting a quick or adequate response. The tenants association at the Norwood has researched the proper chemicals and do-it-yourself methods online, and we have taken up a collection from tenants to assist them when bedbugs invade.

The most important thing to do is not get overwhelmed or embarrassed if you find out you have bedbugs. They were all but eliminated from American homes the 1950's with the widespread use of the pesticide called DDT. Since the 1990's, however, bedbugs have started to return in force.

Step 1: Educate Yourself, Then Do Something About The Problem!

There are many reliable resources on bedbugs available online. From academic research to blogs, there is a wealth of information and products available. Please see the Bedbugs Link section below for more information.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this page is not a substitute for professional advice. If you think you have bedbugs, please consult an extermination professional and your landlord if applicable.

Top Bedbug myths
  • If you get bedbugs is because you're dirty.
FALSE!! Hygiene and cleanliness have nothing to do with bedbugs. They have been found in the best hotels, in popular neighborhoods and in nice, as well as 'problem' buildings.
  • Bedbugs just 'came back' a couple years ago.
FALSE!! Bedbugs, though less common a decade ago, have been with humans since we left the caves. Bedbugs are sneaky and fast, they'll hide for long periods, waiting for the right time to bite you when you're sleeping.
  • You can't get rid of bedbugs, it's too expensive, difficult and the pesticides don't exist.
WRONG!! The pesticides to control bedbugs are available online, and you don't even need a license to buy them. If you follow all the steps completely, you can control and even eliminate the problem.

What to Do TODAY!

  1. You can use bug spray (like OFF! or anything with DEET) on your entire body as a temporary measure to repel bedbugs. Some people have also used natural essential oils such as lavender, lemon, or neme oil on their bodies and their bedding.

  2. Buy a mattress cover (must be anti-dust mite) to encase your mattress and prevent bedbugs from getting out.

  3. Find out if your neighbors have bedbugs. Together you can determine how widespread the problem is and bring it to the attention of your landlord and hopefully come up with a strategy to get rid of the bedbugs
How to Do-It-Yourself
  1. Purchase a spray that contains Deltamethrin at your local hardware store or online. This will kill and draw out the bedbugs from their hiding places. Make sure to spray mattresses, furniture, drapes, floors, baseboards. The spray comes ready made or mix-it-yourself.

  2. Purchase a powder/dust such as Drione Dust which contain Pyrethrins (derived from flowers). Apply the powder (AFTER spray from step 1 has dried) to baseboards, mattresses, behind picture frames, around the bed, and in the bathroom where bedbugs go for water. As the bugs crawl over the dust, it will dry them out and kill them. The powder has a lasting effect for months and will supplement the spraying.

  3. Make sure in the mean time to wash clothes and sheets in hot water, remove clutter where bedbugs can hide (consider getting plastic containers for storage of documents and clothes).

Bedbug Links
Academic info
http://www.ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/bed_bugs.htm Penn State
http://www.ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/pdfs/bedBugs.pdf Penn State
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/bedbugs/ Harvard
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2105.html Ohio Sate
http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef636.asp Univ of Kentucky
http://mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs/DS00663 Mayo clinic
http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bedbugs-topic-overview Web Md
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol11no04/04-1126.htm CDC
http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/bugs/bedbug.html Kids health


Bedbugs in the News
http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/1427.htm (Pen state news article about bedbugs)
http://a.abcnews.com/US/story?id=90005 (ABC news)
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/19/nyregion/19bedbugs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin (NY times)
http://www.wftv.com/news/15032105/detail.html (Bedbugs a Dysneyland hotel)
http://www1.umn.edu/umnnews/Feature_Stories/Bloodthirsty_travelers3A_Bedbugs_are_biting_again.html?enewsemail (university of Minnesota)
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/02/nyregion/02bedb.html?ex=1383109200&en=0c8b915eb62d9bba&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND&pagewanted=print
http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/04/04/050404ta_talk_singer

Blogs
http://bedbugsnyc.blogspot.com/2006/09/bed-bug-city-council-hearing.html
http://bedbugsnyc.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-to-tell-friend-about-your-bed-bug.html How to tell a friend that you have bedbugs
http://bedbugger.com/
http://www.mahalo.com/Bed_bugs

Friday, April 11, 2008

Norwood Tenants Plan Community Event to Demand Fire Safety: Sat. 4/12 (Español abajo)

  • WHO: Councilmember Kwame Brown, Norwood Tenant Association, DC Fire Marshall, the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs (OLA), the DC Metropolitan Police, TENAC, the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC)
  • WHAT: Community safety event and education fairWHEN: Saturday April 12th from 2 to 3 pm
  • WHERE: Closed off street in front of 1417 N St NW

In the shadow of a recent five-alarm apartment fire in Mount Pleasant at a building with over 7,000 housing code violations, tenants remain concerned about fire safety. The tenants at the Norwood Apartments have organized a community safety event and education fair this Saturday to increase fire safety awareness in the Logan Circle neighborhood. As we learned from Mount Pleasant, a fire can affect an entire neighborhood, not just 'problem' buildings. The event will take place this Saturday April 12th from 2 to 3 pm on the street in front of 1417 N Street NW.

Tenants at the Norwood are concerned about the numerous gaps in fire safety in the building, and potential hidden hazards in other buildings, and they don't want to become another fire tragedy. On April 2nd 2008 the DC Fire Marshal found problems at the Norwood with smoke detectors, fire doors that do not close property, and exposed electrical wires hanging in the basement. As a result of these findings, the DC Fire Marshal will go door-to-door to conduct an inspection of the Norwood and surrounding apartment buildings on N Street NW to identify and abate potential dangers.

The Norwood Tenant Association is collaborating on the issue of fire safety in rent-controlled buildings with the DC Fire Marshall, the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs (OLA), the DC Metropolitan Police, TENAC, the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) and tenants associations across the city. This partnership is a positive step towards improving fire safety and will raise awareness about deteriorating and unsafe conditions in the neighborhood. Tenants are demonstrating solidarity by wearing white T-shirts on the day of the event.

DC Councilman Kwame Brown will lead a delegation of DC elected officials and agencies on a tour of the poor living conditions that some tenants are forced to endure at the Norwood.

The DC Fire Prevention Bureau and other DC government agencies will conduct an education fair on N Street NW. Additionally, three fire insurance providers will be on hand to provide information on low cost fire and renters insurance for tenants. Landlords' insurance only covers the walls of the apartment building, and in the event of a tragic fire tenants face losing everything they own unless they are insured.

The Norwood apartment building was included in the recent Washington Post series, "Forced Out," about deteriorating rent-controlled buildings targeted for condo conversion ("The Profit In Decay" 3-19-08). The tenants of the Norwood said 'no' to a condo pitch by the Tenacity Group in January 2007, and instead demanded that problems be fixed 'today.' Tenants at the Norwood call for an end to persistent housing code violations, and remain committed to preserving affordable housing.

_______________________________________________________

  • Quiénes: Concejal Kwame Brown, Asociación de Inquilinos del Norwood, Departamento de Bomberos de DC, la oficina de asuntos latinos(OLA), el departamento de Policía, TENAC, la Corporación Latina para el Desarrollo Económico (LEDC)
  • Qué: Evento comunitario de seguridad y feria educativa.
  • Cuándo: Sabado April 12 de Abril de 2 a 3 de la tarde.Dónde: Cierre de calle frente al 1417 N St NW

Inquilinos del Norwood planean evento comunitario y exigen seguridad en contra de incendios.

Después de el reciente incendio de categoría 5 que termino con un edificio de apartamentos en que tenia más de 7,000 violaciones al código de vivienda, los residentes se encuentran preocupados por su seguridad. Los inquilinos del Norwood han organizado un evento comunitario de seguridad y una feria educativa este sábado para incrementar la seguridad en caso de incendio en el vecindario de Logan Circle. Lo que aprendimos del incendio de la Mount Pleasant, es que el incendio puede afectar vecindarios completos, no solo a edificios que están en problema. El evento se efectuará este sábado 12 de Abril de 2 a 3 de la tarde en frente del 1417 N Street NW.

Los inquilinos del Norwood están preocupados por las deficiencias que existen en el edificio, por la falta de seguridad en caso de incendio, y ellos no quieren llegar a ser parte de una tragedia. El 2 de Abril el departamento de bomberos encontraron problemas en el Norwood con detectores de humo, puertas de emergencia que no cierran apropiadamente y cables eléctricos sueltos en el sótano. Como resultado de estas violaciones encontradas, el departamento de bomberos irá puerta por puerta para verificar que todos los departamentos del Norwood y de algunos edificios de departamentos vecinos ubicados en la calle N, NW para identificar y terminar con peligros potenciales.

La Asociación de Inquilinos del Norwood colabora en la prevención de incendios en edificios de renta control con el departamento de bomberos del distrito de columbia, la Oficina de asuntos (OLA por sus siglas en inglés), la policía metropolitana, TENAC, Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) y asociaciones de inquilinos de la ciudad. Trabajando juntos damos un paso adelante para mejorar la seguridad en caso de incendio. Los inquilinos están demostrado su solidaridad usando playeras blancas el día del evento.

El concejal de DC Kwame Brown encabezará una caminata por el edificio con las autoridades de DC y a otras agencias, para ser testigos de las malas condiciones en las que viven varios inquilinos del Norwood.

El departamento de bomberos y otras agencias del gobierno de D.C llevarán a cabo una feria informativa en la calle N St. NW. Se distribuirá información de agencias que proveen seguros en casa de incendio a bajo costo. El seguro del dueño solo cubre las paredes del edificio de departamentos, en caso de una tragedia como un incendio los inquilinos son responsables de sus pertenencias, al menos que estas estén aseguradas.

El edificio Norwood fue incluido en una serie de artículos publicados por el periódico Washington Post sobre el mal estado de edificios que iban a ser convertidos en condominios. Los inquilinos del Norwood rechazaron la propuesta de condominios en enero del 2007 y exigieron que se arreglaran los problemas.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The problem: Unsafe living conditions

The Washington Post has documented dozens of cases of tenants being forced out as their homes were cleared to make way for high-end condos (The Profit in Decay, 3-9-08)

Bed Bugs

DC government housing inspectors, Div. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), issued housing code violations for building-wide bed bug infestations in 2006 and 2007. Children are bitten by bed bugs on a regular basis. Meanwhile, bed bugs continue to thrive.


We find bed bugs like these on a regular basis.
Elevator
There is only one elevator in our seven-story building. Tenants are frequently trapped in the elevator, and each year the elevator breaks down for months at a time. Last July, during the hottest month of the summer, the elevator was out of service for 31 days.

The non-working elevator creates a hardship for tenants who are forced to carry groceries, strollers and bikes up the stairs. Seniors and people with chronic health conditions are most affected because they have even more difficulty taking the stairs. One senior who lives on the 5th floor has to carry his oxygen tank up the stairs, while another on the 6th floor has asthma attacks when he is forced to take the stairs. A tenant from the 7th floor on crutches was also forced to live without the elevator for a month. As a result of the elevator problems, many tenants are trapped in their apartments when the elevator is not working.

Management blames the elevator problems on old age, however, there are other 75 year-old elevators in DC that work properly because they receive regular maintenance.

Mold
Excessive hazardous amounts of mold exist throughout the building. Entire walls and rooms are covered in mold. Pictures taken on March 8, 2007.

The DC Department of the Environment conducted an investigation in March of 2007 and found excessive amounts of mold which causes respiratory health problems for seniors and children.

Residents who live in apartments with excessive levels mold such as children and seniors, have reported respiratory problems including persistent coughs, runny noses, and allergies.

During the past two years, three managment companies have managed the Norwood, Fleetwood Management, Dreyfuss Management and Cap City Management. These companies remove the mold by simply painting over it. The paint does not stay on the walls and simply peels away underneath the mold as seen in the pictures above.

One year later, March 2008, the mold has not been removed.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

About Us

We are the tenants of the 1417 N Street, NW, the Norwood Apartments, a rent-controlled building just five blocks from the White House. The Norwood is our home. Some of us have lived here as long as thirty years and raised our families here. We watched as the Norwood was stripped of its Art Deco ornamentation in the 1980s. And we have seen the rest of our seven-story building deteriorate since while rents continue to increase each year.

In January 2007, the Tenacity Group met with us to present us with their condo pitch offer which included a possible buyout. They said they would follow the condo conversion laws and would pay us between $5,000 - $15,000 thousand dollars per apartment to vacate our homes. They intended to convert the Norwood into condominiums.

At first, many of us considered leaving. We have lived with cockroaches, bed bugs, mold, mice, and an antiquated, frequently broken elevator for years. The opportunity to leave seemed a welcome opportunity.

Shortly before the buyout offer, we had formed a tenants' association. Our association was a bit splintered at first. We came from a broad variety of nationalities and backgrounds. Our meetings were conducted in English and Spanish, with further simultaneous translation to facilitate communication. But together we sought redress from our landlord for the wretched condition into which the Norwood had fallen.

Membership in our tenants' association grew after we received a condo pitch offer from the Teancity Group. We spent weeks debating the offer. It seemed weak; $5,000-$15,000 was a pittance in comparison to the millions of dollars in profits our landlord would make from the condo conversion. And it seemed a nominal amount for the work and expense involved in relocating our homes. Most importantly, we felt that turning over the the building would be a reward to our landlord for years of intentional neglect. After much discussion, we decided to focus on fixing the problems in our building before any more conversations about condo conversion.

It seems foolish to hold on to housing in such poor condition as ours. But we have a larger vision:our goal is to preserve the Norwood as permanent affordable housing. After all, this is our community and our hope is to divorce ourselves from our slumlord; create for ourselves the decent living conditions we have been denied; and create a supportive community within our neighborhood.

We have three consolidated lawsuits against our landlord in the DC Office of Administrative Hearings in response to his negligence. We have a second suit against him in Superior Court because he threatened our organizers with eviction, in clear violation of the 2006 Right to Organize Act. Currently, we are hoping our landlord will honor his offer to sell us the building under Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

Saving our homes: What we've done so far

The 1417 N St, NW (Norwood Tenant Association) was created in late 2005 when tenants decided to come together to discuss maintenance problems. As we began to organize, we learned that in order to reach our goals to improve living conditions we needed community support.

In order to reach our goals we:

  • Learned about bed bugs and how to exterminate them.
  • Started a bed bug collection fund among tenants so that we could purchase extermination chemicals to kill bed bugs.
  • Educated ourselves and tenants about how to detect and control bed bugs.
  • Filed three lawsuits (aka Tenant Petitions) against Fleetwood Management and our landlord in September of 2006. We filed two additional lawsuits in April 2007.
  • Wrote numerous letters to our landlord, management company, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, and DC city council members.
  • Reached out to the media to bring attention to the problems at the Norwood.
  • Learned about our rights as tenants by reaching out to the DC tenant advocacy organizations such as TENAC, the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA), the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), and EmpowerDC.
We educated and empowered ourselves and came to the realization that we could also help other tenant associations throughout DC. We have shared our story by visiting other buildings that were being targeted for possible condo conversion. We met with various tenant associations and eventually we helped establish the District of Columbia Tenants Rights Alliance a coalition representing 20 buildings (and 1,000 families) throughout DC for protecting affordable housing.



Thursday, March 6, 2008

DC Government Response: Seeking Enforcement

Like other tenants mentioned in the recent March 2008 Washington Post article series "The profit in Decay," and "A failure in enforcement," the Norwood Tenant Asociation has dedicated its efforts to fix numerous housing code violations by working with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) with little to no progress.

DCRA has conducted two building-wide housing inspections at the Norwood in September 2006 and June 2007. Over 300 housing code violations were cited but have not been enforced. The potential fines were assessed at over $200,000, however as of today, the DCRA has only collected $1,000 for the elevator being out of service in July 2007.

Inspectors have repeatedly cited the Norwood for mold, building-wide bed bug, roach and mice infestations, crumbling walls, exposed electrical wires in common areas of the building, fire code violations, malfunctioning heaters, no working air conditioners and the malfunctioning elevator with little or no enfocement.

In March 2007, the DC Department of the Environment conducted a mold inspection. The report concluded that there were dangerous levels of mold that affect the respiratory health of children, seniors and people with compromised health conditions. Unfortunately, the inspector who completed the mold report report did not deliver a copy to the management company or the landlord.

The tenants of the Norwood have worked with the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs (OLA), and the Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) to call for inspections and to seek support. Unfortunately many of our biggest problems are still unresolved.

We have been successful at organizing our community and educating our neighbors about our rights and ways to address our problems. The DC government is well aware of the problems at the Norwood, yet many problems persist.

We ask ourselves if the city will not compel landlords to maintain their rental buildings, what other recourse to we tenants have? We hope that community and city support will bring further attention to the problems, and address the problem of unresponsive landlords and management companies throughout the District. We have the right to safe and decent housing.

Norwood in the News...

March 16, 2011 - WAMU Radio 88.5 fm (NPR)
Tenants Tackle Bedbugs, Mold and 'Condozilla'

January 20, 2011 - TBD.com
Norwood Tenants Association working on a play about bedbugs

January 30, 2009 - Washington City Paper
Good Nite, Sleep Tight (cover story): The District is just now waking up to a bunch of little problems under the sheets.

March 9, 2008 - The Washington Post
Forced Out: The profit in decay-Landlords who empty buildings of tenants reap extra benefit under law

March 9, 2008 - The Washington Post
The wrong side of renewal (Slides 8 & 14): Tenants say they have been pushed out, sometimes by bad building conditions.

August 18, 2007 - The Afro American Newspaper
District residents resist condo conversion

July 19, 2007 - WAMU Radio 88.5 fm (NPR)

Norwood Tenants
Tenants at the Norwood Apartments in Northwest DC are trying to take their fight for better building conditions to the city council.

July 13, 2007 - WAMU Radio 88.5 fm (NPR)

Norwood Apartment living conditions
Tenants at the Norwood Apartments in Northwest DC are protesting hazardous living conditions in their building.

July 11, 2007 - WUSA 9 (CBS)

Broken Elevator Is Hardship For Tenants
Amid affordable housing crunch, D.C. tenants resist going condo

May 27, 2007 - Washington DC Associated Press
Amid affordable housing crunch, D.C. tenants resist going condo

Feb 27, 2007 - Washington DC Examiner
Tenants-rights group planning forum