A well-known Toledo Board of Education member now running for Toledo City Council said Thursday that if elected, he would be in a good position to address living conditions at two troubled low-income apartment complexes, where he said problems harm students’ self-esteem and lead some to drop out of school.
“I know I’ll be in a better position to do something about this,” said Larry Sykes, who is a past member of the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority board of directors. “I have a history of being successful. I look forward to doing it.”
Speaking at the school district’s headquarters on East Manhattan Boulevard, Mr. Sykes urged the city of Toledo and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to have the Alpha Towers and Greenbelt Place apartments’ owners resolve such problems as bed bug infestations, faulty elevators, and the absence of air conditioning.
“Clean, safe, sanitary housing is an issue for the city, along with quality education, and economic development,” he said. “Those are issues that I would challenge once I am on city council. But at this point I’m on the school board. And this [living conditions situation] is affecting our children and our parents. And that’s my concern. School is getting ready to start.”
To prompt compliance, Mr. Sykes suggested that tenants’ rents be placed in escrow accounts until problems are resolved; that HUD vouchers be taken from the property owners and tenants be assisted in relocating, and that fines be assessed on a daily basis for inaction.
Greenbelt Place residents complained last year to federal officials of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the 806 Cherry St. complex, as well as citing missing fire extinguishers and accusing management of demanding double payment of rent or deposits.
A manager at the 176-unit complex, owned by Hampstead Cherrywood Partners LP, and managed by California-based Intercoastal Financial, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday.
In response to tenants’ complaints, Mayor Mike Bell wrote U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) on July 16, asking him to support Advocates for Basic Legal Equality’s request that HUD terminate Greenbelt Place’s eligibility for housing-assistance subsidies.
Mayoral spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said Thursday no response had been received. Senator Brown had told The Blade he had contacted HUD; Raymond Keyser, the acting field-office director at the department’s Cleveland office, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Bed bugs and broken elevators also have been a recurring complaint at Alpha Towers, 525 E. Woodruff Ave., which is owned by Maryland-based New Alpha Housing LP and managed by the Donaldson Group LLC, also from Maryland.
In a statement issued Thursday, New Alpha’s local attorney, Milton Pommeranz, wrote that HUD’s Cleveland Multifamily Program Center “has been undertaking a review of these matters over the past two weeks.
“We are advised that the review should be concluded within the next couple of weeks,” Mr. Pommeranz wrote. “Further comments on behalf of Alpha Towers are deferred until the completion of HUD’s review.”