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Red Oak tenants rally over housing conditions

People listen as Saddon gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Members of the Chamberlayne Tenants Council listen Monday as Patrick Saddon discusses the living conditions at Ginter Park's Red Oak Apartments.

Residents raised concerns about broken air conditioning units, mold in their apartments and other issues.

Dozens of tenants and housing activists rallied Monday afternoon outside the Red Oak Apartments in Richmond's Ginter Park neighborhood. Residents with the Chamberlayne Tenants Council raised concerns about broken air conditioning units, mold in their apartments and cracks forming in the walls and ceilings, among other issues.

Monday's rally was organized by the tenants council, a resident-led group which advocates for people who rent apartments owned by Ginter Park LLC.

The limited liability corporation, which is registered at a New Jersey home owned by Boruch Fogel, purchased the buildings in 2020 from companies connected to Richmond-based Zacharias Brothers Realty. Another corporation, Ginter Park Investors LLC, is registered at the same address by New Jersey-based investor Chaim Bialostozky.

Water damage surrounds an interior window.
Janice Churchwell
Janice Churchwell says management at Red Oak Apartments has fixed some issues in her cousin's apartment, but a window leak has persisted.

Tenant organizers said while maintenance has improved slightly since they first raised concerns about the complex in 2020, there is more work to be done before residents feel comfortable in their homes.

Red Oak Apartments declined to speak with VPM News for this story.

Janice Churchwell said her cousin, John King, has rented a unit in Red Oak since 2018. That same year, Churchwell said, a window in King's apartment began to leak.

“I came over to the [rental] office. And I showed them the pictures, and I told them that we were putting a towel there,” she said. “As I went to wipe [the water], it started caving in under the windowsill. They came and fixed that. Then he was watching TV, and the ceiling started to crumble.”

Churchwell said the property managers patched the hole in the wall, the cracks in the ceiling and the roof, but the window continued leaking.

“Where they patched, the water is moving down further. In that space, you can see where part of the ceiling is coming down again,” she said. “Around the window, it’s starting to mold, and the water is still coming in.”

She said she’s recently been in contact with management about repairs, but they have yet to be completed. Churchwell said she worries for her cousin's health in the meantime; King is in his late 70s.

“I'm just afraid now by the mold being there, that may affect him,” she said.

A city inspection of the complex in May found three violations, including structural issues. While inspectors cleared it of violations in June, residents said issues persist.

Several tenants at the rally shared concerns over their high water bills, saying property management is often slow to provide a statement explaining how the charges are calculated.

“I go to work at seven, come back home at four. My husband go to work at eight, they come back home at five o’clock. Who’s in my house flushing the toilet that much?” said resident Chantay Williams. “I want to know ’cause my sewage bill is more than my water bill.”

Connor Scribner is a former VPM News assistant editor.