2 Detroit legislators urge Jeffersonian Houze to 'remedy hazardous conditions'

December 05, 2021, 12:15 PM

Jeffersonian Houze, looking west toward downtown.

Two legislators from Detroit, Sen. Stephanie Chang and Rep. Joe Tate, ask to meet with executives managing the Jeffersonian Houze east of downtown to discuss what they call "abysmal conditions" -- particularly unreliable elevators.

In a letter to the Hayman Company in Southfield, the Democratic lawmakers "express serious concern about the conditions at the Jeffersonian," which has 412 apartments, and urge regional director Michael Griffioen to "take action on the immediate needs and demands of the residents."

Our offices have been in contact with residents regarding the lack of functional elevators in the 30-story building and the unsatisfactory response from management. ... 

The elderly, those with disabilities, those recovering from surgery, and residents with small children have all been forced to take the stairs. Prior to the last elevator being taken out of service, all residents shared a single elevator and experienced extended wait times to get into their homes, many waiting with bags from work, groceries or carrying children.

In addition, due to elevator unpredictability and scarcity, many people are forced to occupy the elevator at once, which is a serious health and safety concern as residents continue to fight a deadly pandemic. 

The building's West Bloomfield owner, Barbat Holdings, faces legal battles in county and federal courts. The high-rise was placed into federal court receivership last June and now is overseen by a Los Angeles-based investment firm.

On Sunday, Chang tweets: "We got a response from the management company's attorneys: 'My client is acting within its duties and obligations as directed by the federal court and is managing the property appropriately. It is actively addressing and prioritizing all building maintenance issues as quickly and professionally as possible."

Eboni Taylor: "Residents' voices largely go unheard." (Photo: Facebook/2019)

A statement from Chang and Tate quotes tenant Eboni Taylor:

"Residents' voices largely go unheard. My family had to switch apartments due to deep plumbing and infrastructure issues that continue to prevail against Band-Aid fixes.

"It's the same with the elevators — root causes not being addressed and residents suffering in the end. My breaking points were meeting an almost 80-year-old resident in the stairwell as she trekked to the lobby from the 23rd floor. Another is the aggressive and expensive towing policy that causes further distress to residents when there are no adequate alternatives for temporary parking.

"What made all this even more egregious were the lackluster and snide responses from the regional director at Hayman Company, who dismissed me with no alternatives or solutions for the issues that we're facing."

WDIV quotes two other tenants from the high-rise at 9000 E. Jefferson Ave., formerly called Jeffersonian Apartments:

"The middle elevator hasn't worked in a good two or three years,” said Brittany Foot, who has lived in the complex since 2016. ...

"I wake up early just in case the elevator doesn't work, so then I can take 20 flights of stairs to make sure I'm at work on time," said another resident, Larfay Austin. ... According to the residents, the freight elevator is an option sometimes.

Other issues cited by the two Lansing legislators involve garage and laundry room maintenance, plus requests for short-term parking to load and unload vehicles.

"This is inhumane and unacceptable," Sen. Chang says in the news release. "Management companies have a responsibility to ensure their tenants' safety and security, not just to collect the rent. I implore the property owner to listen to residents." Her local party colleague, Rep. Tate, adds: "The residents need resolution on this issue. It is an issue of safety and well-being."

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