Angels, Edgewood Patrol Target Landlords

Eli%20Greer%20Oct%2029.jpgThey marched on Walgreens until they got a nicer new store. They took up arms and got more police patrols, and a drop in crime. Now Edgewood’s rabbi-led “defense patrol” is taking on a new target: absentee landlords they say are running down the neighborhood.

Patrol organizer Eli Greer and his sidekick, national Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa (pictured from right to left), announced the new campaign Monday outside the police substation on Whalley Avenue. They promised to use publicity and patrols to pressure slumlords and the johns and drug-buyers frequenting their properties. And Sliwa promised to “take down” criminals at the properties with citizen arrests.

The pair identified one building in particular, 255 Ellsworth Ave., and its Meriden-based owner as their first target.

Meanwhile, city officials, including the neighborhood’s top cop, described the landlord as responsible and cooperative in efforts to fight blight and crime.

“Day of Reckoning”

Greer and Sliwa blasted the building owner, Christine Bonito, at the press conference unveiling their plans. Greer said his group had repeatedly written to Bonito and called her to complain about continual drug-dealing and prostitution at the multi-family property, to no avail.

He displayed a picture of the property along with Bonito’s name and the Meriden address of the limited liability corporation, Angel from Above, through which she owns it.

“This property has been a constant nuisance in this neighborhood,” he declared. “Her day of reckoning has come.”

Greer said his group has a list of “six to eight” other “slumlords” it plans to target if they don’t take responsibility for crimes committed by tenants. He said a message is going out to these landlords: “Take control of your property or don’t be a landlord… You’re the landlord. You milk it. You get the rent checks. You’re responsible for who lives there, who hangs around your property.”

Click on the play arrow to watch Greer describe his message to absentee landlords.

When Greer was a kid, back in the 1990s, Rabbi Daniel Greer, organized a similar neighborhood group that targeted prostitution by posting flyers with names and addresses of “Johns of the Week” who drove into Edgewood to patronize prostitutes.

In “ratcheting up” their efforts now, Eli Greer said, his Edgewood Park Defense Patrol would similarly expose both johns and landlords to public shame. They would also use the “sheer physical presence” of the armed citizen patrols they formed, along with Guardian Angels patrols, to keep deter criminal behavior.

Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels vowed that, when his patrols see people leaving the building after buying drugs, “We will not hesitate to take them down, put the drugs out in the street, call the police, and make a citizen’s arrest.”

How will they avoid grabbing people on innocent visits to the building?

Through their “street smarts,” Sliwa said. He also said the Guardian Angels have been watching the building, gathering intelligence on who goes there and why.

The Latest Step

Bonito’s property is across the street from the Whalley Walgreens, where Greer-organized neighborhoods picketed to demand cleaner conditions. The company ended up agreeing to tear down its store and build a new one. It consulted with the neighborhood and agreed to use brick instead of stucco facing. The store is under construction.

The building is also in the Elm-Edgewood neighborhood, where the Greer family runs a yeshiva in the neighborhood and owns many properties (including one next door Bonito’s). In June the Greers made national news by forming their armed citizens patrol in reaction to rising crime.

They came under criticism for the guns. But they also won increased police patrols. They drew the Guardian Angels to town to form their own, unarmed, citizens patrol to work in concert with the group; the Angels graduated a class of New Haven recruits on Sunday.

Greer claimed crime has dropped 50 to 55 percent from a year ago in the neighborhood. Mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city doesn’t have a statistical breakdown for Elm-Edgewood. Crime has indeed dropped there, as it has throughout the city, she said, adding that the drop cannot be attributed to the work of any one group.

Both Greer and Sliwa called their new landlord campaign a logical next step in their joint efforts to clean up the historic, racially diverse, Victorian-lined streets around Edgewood Park. Sliwa grouped Bonito among absentee landlords who “throw nickels around like manhole covers who just care if the check or the cash clears at the end of the month and don’t give jack diddly squat … whatsoever who the tenants are… The building will be shut down.”

Click on the play arrow to watch Sliwa talk like a tough guy.

“A Nice Girl”

To Sgt. Stephen Shea, district manager at the Edgewood/Whalley police substation, Christine Bonito is precisely the kind of landlord he wants to see in the neighborhood.

He said “only recently” did complaints start surfacing about criminal activity at the building. He said the problem stems from some problem tenants. Bonito has worked closely with the cops, according to Shea, to address the problems. She signed up for “Light the Night,” a program to keep bright lights outside her property all night. She has begun evicting problem tenants, too, he said. That process takes time.

Bonito herself failed to return repeated phone messages left with Shoreline Property Management, the Meriden company whose number is listed at the building. Nor did Cheryl Wilcox, her attorney in two pending eviction cases, return a call by press time.

“She’s been responsive,” Shea said of Bonito. “It’s good. We have to work together. She’s a nice girl. She’s at that property at least two, three times a week. She’s in contact with me regularly about what steps we can take to eradicate problems.”

Mayoral spokeswoman Mayorga also said Bonito has been cooperative with building inspectors. Her building has two subsidized Section 8 apartments. The city inspected them recently, according to Mayorga; one apartment passed, one failed. “We are receiving cooperation” from Bonito as she prepares for a Nov. 9 reinspection, Mayorga said. She said the city has no housing code violations or overcrowding complaints on record at the property.

chinese%20food%20owner.jpgJohn Zeng (pictured), owner of A-1 Oriental Kitchen, rents a first-floor Whalley storefront from Bonito; the store is attached to the apartment building. he said she’s been a good landlord.

ellsworth%20superintendent.jpgThis man, who identified himself as the building’s superintendent, also praised her. He didn’t give his name. He comes to the building Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he said. “I just clean and go. I don’t know what they do around here. I just keep it clean.”

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Comments

posted by: Edward_H on October 29, 2007  4:54pm

Curtis Sliwa never had any credibility with me because of the hoaxes he has pulled in the past and now Eli Greer has also lost my admiration. Both Sgt. Shea and Bonito’s tenants say she is a responsible landlord yet Greer characterizes her as a slumlord? I know Sgt. Shea personally and if Bonito was a bad landlord he would say so. So what will Greer and Sliwa have us think? That Sgt. Shea ,Spokeswoman Mayorga and Bonito’s tenants are all fools and liars?  I am the last person to engage in conspiracy theories but something does not smell right here.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE2DE1F38F935A15752C1A964958260

posted by: charlie on October 29, 2007  7:37pm

Call and express your opinions about their property:

Shoreline Property Management
P.O. Box 9554, New Haven, CT 06535
Tel: (203) 466-8228 Fax: (203) 466-8228

posted by: nfjanette on October 29, 2007  9:47pm

Edward_H: I live less than two blocks from the property and despite the good Sargent’s diplomatic words I can tell you there are valid concerns in this case.  Let’s hope the landlord is as responsive as she is described by the police.

posted by: Esbe on October 29, 2007  10:22pm

The Greers are getting some results, and I applaud them for that.  I don’t really approve of the “gun” stunt, but the publicity works.  Going after rotten landlords is a good idea, although it sounds like an open question as to whether this one is actually rotten or just waiting for the courts to let her evict bad tenants.

On the subject of landlords, this Hartford Courant story pretty much accuses the Greers of not caring very much about the lead poisoning of little children in the apartments that they themselves rent to others.  Maybe Sliwa could look into that as well.

posted by: Edward_H on October 29, 2007  10:44pm

NFJANETTE

I take what you have to say about this property very seriously since everything you have ever posted has been level headed, logical and well thought out. So as a person who lives quite close to this property would you say it qualifies as a slum or the owner a slumlord? I did a little searching on the NHI Crime log yet I did not find any incidents at the address in question. I am not saying problems might not exist. I just don’t think they qualify to the level of calling the property owner a slumlord.

Personally I am disappointed to see Greer throw in with this glory seeking media hound Sliwa. The mud these two are slinging at the landlord seem out of proportion to problems on record. There is a huge difference between a slumlord and a person who has problem tenants. If Greer and Sliwa are so angry about landlords who have undesirable tenants they should seek legislation to make evictions easier. But of course that won’t be looked upon too favorably by the media.

posted by: Ned on October 30, 2007  7:11am

“She signed up for “Light the Night,” a program to keep bright lights outside her property all night.”  Is this the UI Light Pollution Solution to crime?  Those horrible, prison yard lights blotting out the stars, wasting electricity and polluting neighboring yards and residences with unnecessarily “bright” light.  Nothing says dangerous slum, and inconsiderate obnoxious owner, to me, more than a property ringed with floodlights.  In addition to which, the building code specifically prohibits light from one property spilling over into another.
http://www.maltastro.org/lpag/

posted by: on whalley on October 30, 2007  7:45am

I hope to high heaven that when “Sweetie Pie” throws down with some crack head trying to swap the proverbial “bag of cheeseburgers” for a rock somebody is there to catch it on video. I’d pay money for that.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 30, 2007  8:31am

I was told by Some people in new york that the con
angels chapter are non exist in new york and That they are going to other states to run this scam and hoax.Also what gives them the right to say some one is a slumlord and if this is so than you have laws in place to deal with them.and last they
need to patrol the new haven police department and city hall to stop corruption.P.S Most Of Your Slumlords Is The City Own Property.

posted by: eli on October 30, 2007  9:46am

Why isn’t anyone talking about Mr. Greer’s own history as a slumlord.  It took a lawsuit from tennants to get him to make his own rentals safe for tennents.  Perhaps he should be lighting candles in front of his own slums.

posted by: kevin on October 30, 2007  9:50am

All I have read is how an inanimate object (the property) can cause so many problems or how a person (landlord) is rsponsible for human behavior. Let’s apply a little common sense (a long forgotten thought process) to the equation. Real estate does not destroy itself nor do people buy real estate to move bad humans into it to destroy it. Tenants destroy property! Liberal policies and liberal policy makers have created the fertile ground for behavior, where personal responsibility and consequence for actions has been eliminated. Bad tenants get into a building and then it is very difficult to get them out. Ms. Bonito is a responsible landlord and has taken every action available to her to correct the situation. The judicial system ties the hands of our police keeping them from expeditiously resolving these issues. Want someone to blame…...look for a liberal that beleives every behavior is OK or they make an excuse for it. Give the cops and the landlords the power to correct this type of situation and it will end in a week! Fact: the minority of landlords are slumlords.

posted by: robn on October 30, 2007  11:08am

I find it pretty interesting that city hall has no neighborhood statistics on crime. Wouldn’t it be great if they could just go to a web page and find their own data on crime, sorted and tagged….kind of like this…

http://www.newhavencrimelog.org/cl/choose-area/coordinates/41.317915284847906/-72.94827461242676/0.25/

posted by: James on October 30, 2007  12:09pm

Just an observation; why is the property mentioned not in the appraisal database?  It cannot be found by address, “Christine Bonito”, “Bonito”, or “Shoreline Property Management” as Charlie has suggested.  I’m not suggesting any sort of conspiracy.  Just curious as to why this is. 

@ON WHALLEY, thanks for the cheeseburger reference.  Made my day.

@THREEFIFTHS, I’m not too familiar with their work, but don’t really see how the Angles could be considered a “scam” or “hoax.”  To qualify as a scam, don’t they need to be receiving some sort of renumeration?  My understanding is that this is a volunteer group, no?  Regardless, if their presence brings public attention to the crime New Haven seems content to live with, I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.  Anything to light a fire under the collective asses of this administration.

posted by: James on October 30, 2007  1:02pm

Correction to my previous comment.  I just read the “hoax” article cited by Edward.  I stand corrected.  That being said, the more eyes on this city the better.  The more eyes on the DeStafano administration, the better.  If Curtis’ traveling theater bring some attention to New Haven living conditions, fine by me.  I’ve long past the point of caring how change is affected (barring the violation of civil liberties).

posted by: nfjanette on October 30, 2007  3:01pm

According a the police office in our area that has many years of experience in fighting urban crime, the “Light the Night” program is an important tool that has a positive impact reducing crime in the targeted area.  I share general concerns about “light pollution”, but I see no reason we couldn’t use better lights with improved directivity to put illumination where desired.

posted by: riiight on October 30, 2007  9:59pm

I’m with Eli. The fact that Greer holds a press conference and everyone runs to it and just reports what he’s holding the conference about is ridiculous. I mean, seriously, here is a guy who 1) still has MAJOR EPA violations hanging over his head 2) nonetheless continues to engage in unsafe practices which I’ve witnessed myself: disc grinding lead paint from houses and then using a leaf blower to get rid of the dust from around the base. If you live next door, and you’re wondering why your kids aren’t talking yet, I have some ideas. Its probably because the journalists that love what a spectacle Greer is have truly lost any willingness or ability to make a difference through real journalism.

Get with it people. This is real stuff.

posted by: citysavior on November 1, 2007  6:00pm

ok let me try and get this truth out with out being censored. Why do the Greer’s hold there press confrence at our police station on whalley ave? The back drop gives the impression that the police and edgewood community are in agreement with his gun posse and the angels teaming up on houses in the community that HE deems are involved in illegal activity(is this better editor)