95 Year-Old Tenant Fights Slumlord
FRIDAY, MAY 30, 2008

Ruffo Patino carried a white-plastic folding chair down to the dilapidated lobby of his building on a recent Thursday evening. He was agitated about the landlord's failure to improve conditions there.

"I'm tired of the landlord lying to the tenants, to the city, and to the courts about fixing this building," said Mr. Patino. "I'll continue to fight to make conditions better for the people that live here."

Mr. Patino began advocating on behalf of his friends and neighbors at 2085 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan decades ago. He first organized a tenant association in the 1980s to fight a previous owner of the building.

Today, Mr. Patino, who was born in 1912, is still in active member of the tenant association and is present at every meeting. "He's the beating heart of this building-he inspires all of us to keep fighting for what's right," says Sateesh Nori, the tenants' Legal Aid lawyer.

Mr. Patino moved to New York City after leaving his homeland of Mexico to seek a better life for his family. Fifty years later, he finds himself at the heart of a 9 year struggle to improve conditions for his fellow tenants.

The tenants of 2085 Lexington Avenue began fighting their current landlord, 2085 Lexington Operating Corp., in 1999 for its failure to properly maintain the building. The tenants did not have a working elevator, the lobby was in total disrepair, and leaks cascaded throughout almost every apartment.

In 2004, after more than two years of litigation during which the tenants made almost 30 appearances in court, a judge ordered that the building be operated by an administrator so that the repairs could be made. Fortunately for the tenants, the administrator rebuilt the elevator, but little else changed in the building.

Now, the tenants are really angry. Their recent attempts at working with the landlord have been ineffective. The tenants plan to return to court this month to force the landlord to fix their building.

Ruffo Patino will be there with his white-plastic chair.