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Luisa Garcia says she uses an umbrella in her apartment when it rains and brushes off the cockroaches from her children’s faces when they sleep.

Garcia lives at 2244 Morris Ave., a 55-unit building in the Mount Hope section of the South Bronx. Her landlord is Robert Heimann, owner of four buildings in the Mount Hope/Fordham area whose tenants have united in a campaign to win long-sought repairs using an organizing strategy devised by a local community group.

The tenants complain of unreliable hot water and heat, leaking roofs, clogged pipes, frayed wires sticking out from heating units, and unlocked doors open to anyone–drug dealers included. “How am I gonna be able to run out the door with my kids when someone breaks in?” Garcia asked during a meeting of the four buildings’ tenants held last Wednesday. City Limits entered two of the buildings with ease–and without having to knock.

After vowing to appear at the Wednesday meeting, landlord Heimann failed to show up. But he had already signed a contract with each of the four tenant groups, arguing that he had made many repairs and provided adequate heat–but also assuring that tenants’ demands would be met.

Four months ago, tenants from Heimann’s building at 2342 Ryer Ave. approached the Association from Fordham to Burnside (AFB), which helped them join together with the three other properties to mount the campaign. Tenants say the strategy has generated results and conditions are improving.

“Maybe this contract will make a difference, but I don’t know. We’re going to have to watch him every step of the way,” said Bernard Gill, a resident of 2400 Valentine Ave. A face-to-face meeting with Heimann is the first step in the contract, and is not yet scheduled. City Limits’ calls to Heimann were not returned.

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