MORRIS HEIGHTS, Bronx (WABC) -- The tenants of a building that partially collapsed in the Bronx have filed a lawsuit to force the building's landlords to complete the repairs needed to lift a vacate order.
Some tenants say they have been out their homes since a corner of the building on Billingsley Terrace in Morris Heights came crashing down on December 11, 2023.
The lawsuit, filed with the help from the Legal Aid Society, seeks to force the landlords to rebuild the collapsed section of the building and restore units to their original layouts and square footage.
"We are also alleging harassment," said Zoe Kheyman with the Legal Aid Society. "These owners are forcing rent-stabilized tenants to vacate their homes and leave their communities through illegal means."
The tenants say the rest of building is in a state of disrepair.
They claim they are constantly faced problems including no gas, no heat, no hot water, rat and roach infestations, dust and other hazardous violations, many of which were already occurring years before the collapse.
"1915 Billingsley's disaster did not start on December 11th," said New York City Councilmember Pierina Sanchez. "It had started years and years ago and there are hundreds of violations and hundreds more of complaints."
Sanchez chairs the Council's committee on housing and buildings. She wants to see a faster response to tenant complaints and expedited repairs of hazardous housing violations, along with greater accountability and harsher punishments for negligent landlords.
Tenants are asking the court to intervene on their behalf.
Furniture, art, and belongings all had to be left behind by residents of the building when it partially collapsed in December.
More than 100 people were unexpectedly uprooted. Many have been living in homeless shelters ever since.
That includes residents like Ivan Schoop. It was his apartment that was left exposed on the top floor of the partially collapsed building.
The 32-yer-old and his family are currently living in a shelter in Manhattan.
"I lost everything because the room that came down, that's where I had all my possessions, so I don't have anything in storage or anything so I literally had the clothes I had on that day," Schoop said.
A 64-year-old Pedro Rodriguez moved into the apartment building in 1975.
"We're not animals. We are people. We are trying to survive like everybody else," he said. "I mean, this is the USA, this is democracy. We need help."