Pee on the stairs, broken elevators and broken windows. This is how Abdullah Hajj described the Greenway Heights apartments.
“It was a nightmare,” he said, referring to his time there.
Since March 2020, inspectors have logged in 20 violations in Greenway Heights — 14 of which were citations for “life safety” issues, according to city data. The vast majority of those citations occurred in August of 2022.
Haji lived in Greenway Heights, in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, for a year and a half.
Her sister, Ferdoussa Haj, said she began noticing problems once the new management company, Granite City Real Estate, took over. The previous administration had disbursed a money order provided by Ferdoussa Haji in return for the deposit. She said the new management promised to put that money into next month’s rent instead.
This has not happened yet, according to Ferdoussa Haji.
They’re like, ‘I don’t care about the previous administration. You have to deal with it. But they told me they will pay it back. That’s the amount I’ve already paid, and I have the receipt.”
Residents also raised concerns about cleanliness in the building and maintenance of common services, such as laundry — so Ferdoussa Hajji called 311.
“It (the laundry area) was full of rubbish, and there was no janitor coming,” said Ferdowsa Haji.
She said that many washing machines stopped working in the winter.
“I don’t even want to remember; it was winter, I was a new mom, my daughter was vomiting, and there was no washing machine. Every floor I went to was broken,” Ferdoussa Hajji said.
She and others living in the building worry that the building is not safe.
“If you pull the door hard enough, which the homeless people found out, you can only enter the building through the side entrance,” Abdullah Haji said. “They just pull the door, they go in, they sleep on the stairs, they smoke in the stairs, the stairs are full of trash. There’s vomit on the floor. They pee on the stairs. There’s graffiti on the walls. There are needles they use to inject drugs.”
Abdullah Hajji said the department has not responded to requests for maintenance or talks about safety.
Ferdoussa Haji said that Haji’s unit had many maintenance problems. For example, the refrigerator does not work unless it is at the highest temperature.
She said, “I have to unplug my refrigerator when I sleep at night so I don’t have to put myself and my daughter in danger.”
One of the tenants, Koos Isse, is visually impaired. She had problems with the power key for the building and it was stuck outside in the winter for 1 hour because she couldn’t get in, and a friend translated it.
According to Al-Siddiq, Essa has also had problems with the door handle for about two months. The door does not close easily, and she feels unsafe sleeping at night in her apartment due to fears of people breaking in.
Another tenant has a child in a wheelchair. Sometimes the elevators don’t work, Ferdouseh Haji said, and then she has to go down the stairs.
“We only have one elevator in the entire apartment building. If this is downstairs, everyone has to use the stairs, which makes it really difficult for people who live on the third and fourth floors. Especially a lady with a visual impairment. She will need help to get down the stairs.” he said. Abdallah Haji: “Another family has a disabled child who has a physical disability, so they literally have to carry her downstairs with her wheelchair and everything.”
Abdullah Hajji said that instead of accommodating residents’ various safety concerns, the administration ignored many messages from residents.
“They show a lot of vengeance against people who decide to raise their voice, threaten them with verbal threats, tell them they’re going to revoke their parking privileges and they’re going to file for eviction,” he said.
His sister, Ferdoussa Haji, wrote several emails to the building’s line managers and developers, PRG and Phoenix Development. She said none of the issues she talked about were resolved.
The tenants reached out to their council member, Jason Chavez (Ward 9), who also attempted to reach out to management.
“I was trying different people. It was a lack of response,” Chavez said. “I think the loss of management and lack of intervention in management leads to a lot of these problems and we need accountability to help address them.”
He hopes to hold a meeting on site between the city’s regulatory departments and residents.
“The reason I want to have on-site inspections is because I want them to hear directly from the residents what is happening,” Chavez said. So it can be an immediate response. Like now, instead of waiting two weeks for someone to show up to your building and then maybe not noticing the person there and not being able to communicate with them about the problem you’re having.”
As the primary point of contact on the resident side, the Pilgrim siblings feel overwhelmed.
“I think my mental health is definitely deteriorating,” Abdullah Hajji said. “It sure is starting to do a lot of harm to me.”
Last month, Ferdoussa Haji and her brother received a 60-day notice to vacate. They believe management is taking revenge on them for speaking out about residents’ concerns.
“We were like the only two people who were defending,” said Ferdoussa Hajji. “They know if they fire us, they’ll be responsible, and they’ll handle it the way they want to.”
Then Abdullah Hajj appointed a lawyer who sent the company a letter to stop and desist, to which the administration replied that they would bring him to court, he said.
“It was very scary,” said Abdullah Hajj. “It was quite a number of misconduct and abuse along with some of the predatory behavior they show us.”
Granite City Real Estate, the on-site management company, did not respond to our request for comment on resident claims.
Ethnic insults and unfair treatment
Ferdoussa Haji said the site’s real estate manager, who is black, acted rudely and hatefully toward many of the residents.
Many of the building’s residents are Somali sheikhs, some of whom do not speak English. Ferdoussa Hajji said they were upset by the manager’s responses on site when they tried to explain the problems they were facing.
“I watch a lot of her screaming at people, slapping (slamming) the door in their faces, commenting on our religion and our culture, saying, ‘I will not allow anyone in the building that is Somali anymore,’” said Ferdoussa Haji.
Ferdowsa Haji alleges that the headmistress called the Somali population “filthy” and swore she would never allow more Somali residents.
“I think it’s just because we’re Somalis and we’re first-generation immigrants, and because we’re a vulnerable community, that they decided to take advantage of us. Because of the communication barrier, and a lot of the tenants in the building don’t really speak English and they need a translator so they kind of understand each other,” said Abdullah Haji. And they benefit from it.”
He said, “She was insulting them and attacking their race, heritage and culture, and also used religious hate speech.” “We brought that up to upper management, and they still don’t seem to care.”
Abdullah Haji feels that none of the people involved want to take responsibility.
Ferdoussa Haji said that when, a few days later, Ferdoussa Haji sent a complaint about the manager’s alleged behavior, and confronted her about it.
“She said to me, ‘Well, I sent these emails, and they told me to handle it, so I’m dealing with it.'” Which pretty much refers to that, “It doesn’t really matter who you sent an email to. You’ll still be stuck with me.”
When the siblings reached out to building developers, Abdullah Haji said they hit a dead end.
“I told them what was going on, and they told me they now don’t have the budget to manage a new property for the buildings. Pretty much what they were saying is, ‘We can’t change the property management group right now because the building isn’t making enough money right now to hire a new management group. . So you guys are stuck pretty much exactly where you guys are,” he said. “It was a big slap in the face; It was a rude awakening (because) it kind of showed that they didn’t really care either.”
Ferdowsa Haji is upset about the whole situation.
“It’s really stressful. It’s really frustrating. I feel like a minority, no one cares about us. We don’t have a voice speaking for us. They just walk all over us, and they do it on purpose because they know we’re a minority,” she said.