Code enforcement, fire rescue inspect Stonybrook

For years, tenants at Stonybrook Apartments have reported mold, leaks, broken appliances, infestations, illnesses among children, and holes in the wall.

Those problems were brought to light during Hurricane Irma and despite promises made by local and state officials, residents say nothing has been done.

However, on Wednesday there was a sign of relief for those living in the 216 units, which are a Section 8 multi-family housing project on MLK Boulevard.

City of Riviera Beach code enforcement -- along with Riviera Beach Fire Rescue -- performed safety inspections in each unit.

Officials are staying quiet on what brought them out there in the first place--  other than routine inspections -- but the people who live there are hopeful for something to finally change.

"I'm glad they're here. I'm glad they're here because it's to a point where somebody has got to speak out for us," said Dina Walker, who has lived at Stonybrook for several years.

On Wednesday, she watched code enforcement and fire rescue walk door to door with masks and clipboards.

"We're not here to displace any of the residents…we're not here to cause any undue harm to them," said DaWayne Watson, public information officer for Riviera Beach Fire Rescue.

Residents said code enforcement is checking for damages and other reported conditions in the apartments. Fire rescue confirmed crews are working to ensure each unit has working fire alarms and extinguishers.

"We don't have fire extinguishers. At least I don't in my unit, but my alarm system works well," said Walker.

However, the issues don't stop there.

WPTV requested code violation records on Stonybrook Apartments over the past two years.

In 2016, we found citations for mold, holes in walls and air conditioning units not working. One of those units involved a pregnant woman with five kids.

A code inspection after Hurricane Irma revealed issues that residents claimed were there long before the storm — like severe mold, leaks, and missing fire alarms.

One document from September 2017 states tenants in certain units were living in "conditions that are unsafe."

The property is owned by Tennessee-based Global Ministries but recently managed in the last two years by Ohio-based Millenia Housing Management. Millenia said in a statement last week that it is working to improve conditions for residents.

On Wednesday, the management's attorney, Wayne M. Richards, Esq., sent the following statement regarding those plans:

We understand the frustration the residents of Stonybrook Apartments are experiencing. We are under contract to purchase the complex from its current owner and we are very eager to begin making the changes that will result in a complete transformation of this property – including rehabilitating all 216 units with new kitchens and new bathrooms, completely transforming all building exteriors, expanding green space and building a new 3,100 square foot community center.

WPTV also asked fire rescue if the property is now considered safe following their inspections since Hurricane Irma.

"As far I know, [management is] doing everything that they can or are capable of to make sure the people who occupy these apartments are safe," said Watson.

But last week, residents invited WPTV into their homes to show the leaks, thick mold in the AC, holes in the wall, and exposed electrical sockets — all issues tenants say were reported and not fixed.

"It's not fair, it's not right. it's like we're not humans. and nobody should have to live like that," said Walker.

Residents said the problems have become so deplorable they formed their own residents' council to stage protests. The group even connected with Palm Beach County Tenant's Union for assistance and support.

"Our kids are involved in this…and I love my children dearly to just sit here and let them suffer," said Crystal Lewis, the Stonybrook Resident's Council co-chair.

Fire rescue said the department conducts routine inspections every year and added that so far, they have not seen any major issues. It is unknown how long the inspections will last.

"Those are always concerns -- not just for adults -- but for children," Watson said when asked about the reported problems. "If we run across those types of incidents or those types of violations, we'll address them and go from there."

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