Business renters battle landlord His Essex properties have record of decay, neglect

October 06, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The tenants of Florida real estate mogul Richard M. Schlesinger's now-vacant Riverdale apartment complex in Essex may be long gone, but his commercial renters in the tiny shopping center next door are still struggling with him.

A recent effort to clean the parking lot and cut overgrown trees and weeds around the Mars supermarket there had help from the store's workers, Baltimore County and a private trash hauler -- but not from Schlesinger, the landlord.

"I think it's interesting that when the community had a complaint, they came to us," said Christopher P. D'Anna, vice president of Mars Supermarkets. "We're there, and we're part of the community."

Schlesinger is a developer based in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., who has more than $46 million in court judgments against him and a record of letting his Essex properties decay over the years.

Riverdale, which has 1,140 units in the 1900 block of Eastern Blvd., half of them owned by Schlesinger's company, was emptied in June after utilities were turned off because of more than $600,000 in unpaid bills. Demolition is planned.

Mars' two-year effort to get Schlesinger's company to fix the collapsing walkway roof over the store's entrance culminated in July when the store hired a contractor and began the work, and the landlord sought an emergency court injunction to stop it. That move failed, and Mars took the cost of the repairs out of its monthly rent.

Three months later, D'Anna said, "There's no change in our relationship. We are the same tenant we've always been, and he's the same landlord he's always been."

Mars has anchored the center since 1961, except for a period after a fire. A remodeled Revco-CVS drugstore is the only other major commercial tenant in the center, which faces the 1800 block of Eastern Blvd. in Essex.

A barbershop and a partly boarded-up bar are still in operation. A liquor store, beauty shop and delicatessen are closed and empty. Patti Hoeck, Schlesinger's last on-site manager, also is gone, said Ronald G. Kane, the landlord's Bethesda attorney.

Luigi Alvano, the barber who has been in the Riverdale center for 20 years, angrily pointed to the remains of weeds scraped from between sidewalk cracks in front of his shop Friday to show the landlord's minimal efforts.

He said a part-time worker for Schlesinger was supposed to clean the sidewalk, but just scraped the weeds and left without throwing them away.

But Kane said he will manage the center now, and he said Friday that he has hired a "professional cleaning company with sweeper trucks" to regularly patrol the center parking lot. He said no renovations are planned at the center, however.

A community group's complaint in August to County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, produced the recent cooperative cleanup.

Gardina got the county government involved, and a trash bin was donated by Schafer's Roll Off Service Inc., a hauler that collects trash for the county. Mars contributed eight employees' time, and the county waived dumping fees for the container.

A week later, however, trash again littered the parking lot and a bus stop and filled several sidewalk barrels and several more commercial trash bins behind the center.

Not everyone was pleased with the cleanup.

"They didn't do a good job," complained Edna Emkey, who has lived for more than 30 years in a small house on Bennett Road behind the Mars store. "There's still pieces of branches laying around."

County highway crews are due back at Riverdale this week to clear the debris before a new installed barbed wire-tipped chain-link fence around the vacant brick apartments is closed and locked.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.