Jamaica superintendent John Alba was clearly not happy as lawmakers and gay advocates stood in front of his building on Friday to denounce his alleged ongoing harassment of a gay tenant. He peered through the windows of his apartment, taking photographs and shaking his head in disapproval, even flipping the bird to this reporter.
“He harasses me with filthy words,” said tenant Sergio Gonzales, who has lived in the building for the last 39 years. “He calls me prostitute, faggot, queer, puta — all the words you can imagine. He has spit at me eight times.”
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who represents the area and organized the press conference, called Alba a “goon” and a “stooge” for the property owner, New York Affordable Housing Associates. The company could not be reached for comment.
“Sergio has had enough,” Gennaro said. “He was in housing court pleading his case of terrible harassment against the landlord, and just the stress of the whole thing made the man pass out. We can’t have this in New York City.”
For years the tenants at 88-22 Parsons Blvd. have been complaining about poor living conditions at the apartment building including a leaking roof, plumbing problems and a lack of heat during the winter. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has successfully sued the property owner for failure to make repairs.
Amy Anderson, a lifelong tenant of the building, also accused Alba of harassment, including trying to prevent her from entering the building, cursing at her and using other intimidation tactics. She said she has had to call the police on multiple occasions and fears for her life.
“It’s not OK to threaten people,” Anderson said. “It’s not OK to spit at people. It’s not OK to curse at people, and it’s not OK to put your hands on people and scare them to death.”
Anderson and Gonzales each have an open HPD case against NYAHA for aggravated harassment. Gonzales has also filed a complaint against Alba and NYAHA with the city Human Rights Commission, charging them with discriminating and harassing him because of his sexual orientation, in violation of the city Administrative Code.
Anderson and Gonzales say other tenants haven’t come forward because many of them are new immigrants and are not aware of their rights, or they have been threatened by Alba.
“I’m not backing out,” Anderson said. “This is America, and anyone can choose any lifestyle and nobody has the right to criticize their skin color, their religion or their lifestyle. Please — the people of New York, don’t let people do this. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
When reached by phone on Monday, Alba accused Gonzales and Anderson of lying under oath during the court proceedings against him, claiming they were trying to destroy his life. Then he told the Chronicle, “You are just going to twist my words, so I have really nothing to say to you,” before abruptly hanging up.
City Councilman Danny Dromm, (D-Jackson Heights), a longtime tenants’ advocate and openly gay lawmaker, said that at this historic time when President Obama just publicly voiced his support of same-sex marriage, it is a “total disgrace” that Alba allegedly used anti-gay slurs to bully Gonzales.
“We will use every resource available to fight this landlord, to fight against the superintendent who is harassing the tenants and to make sure that these tenants can live in peace and quiet in their own homes,” Dromm said.
Gennaro criticized NYAHA for employing Alba.
“If this person wants to harass people ... not do any work — he should certainly do that somewhere else, and I think it reflects very poorly on the people who hired him,” Gennaro said.
Both Gonzales and Anderson say that Alba uses the building security cameras to track their every move and employs scare tactics to convince other tenants in the building not to report him or the poor building conditions to the appropriate city agencies.
“Last year he harassed me 12 times a day for months,” Gonzales said. “We went to court. He said he never harassed me. He fabricates lies. He makes lies. ... He’s dangerous. He’s a time bomb.”
Michael Mallon, president of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens, said the situation amounts to a “slumlord” landlord with a rent-stabilized apartment building allowing inappropriate behavior to take place in order to get tenants to move out, all to make more money on the next person who occupies the space.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “Stop the hate. We are watching you.”