Burlington Housing Authority Had to Take Over Poorly Managed Bove Brothers-Owned Building: An Interview with a Bove Tenant

Dec
17

I had the opportunity recently to talk with a local Burlington and former Bove Tenant on the record about her experience living in Bove housing for over 15 years. From the initial phone call I could tell Mayumi is an incredibly brave and strong woman. Not just because she lived in a slum for over a decade, not just because even during that experience she was earning a college degree, and not just because she was able and willing to speak publicly on the record (it helped that she recently found better housing and does not have to worry about landlord retaliation).

Courtesy of Google Street View

Anyone willing to share their story with me, a stranger, especially someone who have been marginalized by our city and community in multiple ways, deserves to be lauded and celebrated for their strength and bravery. I hope I can give this interview, and maybe in a small way Mayumi, justice.

“Burlington was not like this when I was a kid.” – Mayumi

Mayumi grew up in Burlington and moved to 90 Pearl Street, aka Victoria Place, when the building was built in 2001. It was run by both Mark and Rick, according to the Burlington Free Press and is still owned by both of them, an important consideration when assigning responsibility for what Mayumi tells me in the following piece. At any point Mark Bove, as co-owner, could have directed and exerted pressure on Rick to not be a slumlord. He could have tried to kick Rick out of the business (like their father did to his siblings) or sell his half to Rick. Instead, Mark did nothing.

This is important for many reasons, especially since the Free Press article makes it clear that both brothers would be in charge of managing the property. (The article itself is worth a read as it describes how the Boves evicted a single dad and his daughter with cystic fibrosis as retaliation for going to code enforcement). Their management quickly turned the building into hell for tenants.

“Bove Sr. and his wife own the land for the project. Sons Richard and Mark are developing the property and will be responsible for maintenance when tenants move.

Burlington Free Press, Dec 3, 2001.

Mark and Rick Bove ran the property so poorly that very early on Burlington Housing Authority had to take over managing the property, as the property succumbed to rampant and open drug dealing and using and prostitution. BHA managed the property pretty well and gave back reins to the Bove Brothers, seemingly on the condition that Rick and Mark no longer personally managed the property themselves and hired a competent property management company. Rick hired a new company, and for a while, when eyes were on the building, it was managed decently.

However, a few years later the same issues returned – things weren’t getting fixed on time or often at all, hallways were left dirty and unclean, and at one point the filter for gray water was left for years uncleaned in the basement and everyone became sick from the explosive mold growth. It wasn’t until someone threatened to call code enforcement that the problem was fixed. The Boves’ business model rests on ignoring problems, cutting corners, and renting to folks in economically compromised positions.

“The way he [Rick] does business – has no consideration for people as human beings.” – Mayumi

Even right before Mayumi moved out this past summer, people who didn’t live in the building were getting into the building and urinating in the hallways. Rick didn’t pay the recycling company, so recycling wasn’t being picked up for a while. Folks were even illegally living in the basement. At one point, due to the incredibly poor record keeping that goes on through Bove Brothers Management (Run by Emily Mailloux and Lori Conolly), Rick claimed that most residents hadn’t paid their deposit when they had. Before Mayumi moved out she had to go to the state to prove it was paid so that she could get her deposit back.

The housing that the Bove Brothers offer serves a purpose. Since we as a city and state put so little funds towards permanently affordable low-income housing, the thousands of folks who are low-income but don’t make it through the 8-10 year long waiting list for a Section 8 housing voucher often rent from the Boves. Unfortunately, as Mayumi told me, while it’s tough for those with Section 8 vouchers to get things fixed in a timely manner, those without vouchers are shit out of luck and rarely, if ever, get things fixed.

“We need some form of rent control.” – Mayumi

Mayumi also shared some other stories she has heard from neighbors, and how often times low-income tenants and workers are scared of the Boves, for they have the power to make tenants’ lives hell or to send them packing to live on the street.

  • One man was working at the Boves’ factory and renting from the Boves. When he quit because he found a better job roofing, Rick tried to evict him.
  • Someone who worked for Almighty Peaks Painting, who were hired by the Bove family for years, was paid 100% in heroin or cash under the table. The Boves continued to hire Almighty Peaks Painting because this way the Boves could maximize profits while keeping costs down, cutting corners even if it hurts tenants, or at best ‘looking the other way’ when drug dealers were ‘hired’ to fix units. Paying folks under the table is a typical business move.
  • One woman called code enforcement a lot on the Boves and was illegally evicted – she won her case this year. 
  • One person who lived in the decrepit George Street Apartments and worked at the restaurant, John, who you may remember lived in buildings that weren’t fixed for over 15 years, was working under the table. Eventually he was evicted so that someone else could live in the apartment after the Boves finally fixed it 15 years later.
  • Folks often won’t call in complaints because if code enforcement deems a property uninhabitable, there is no mechanism to quickly force landlords to pay for moving and new housing. Since low income residents have to take landlords to court, they often end up homeless and penniless, especially since the Boves seem to have a history of being in contempt when found guilty and owing money.
  • It’s not all bad – Mark Bove can be very kind to folks face-to-face; one time Mayumi lost money in the laundromat and Mark quickly refunded her money.

The Bove Family History – Split Due to Unsavory Business Practice

Dec
14

Did you know that the larger Bove family split up in the 80’s due to Richard Bove Sr’s, predatory business practices. where he cut his own siblings out of the business so they started what would eventually be sold and become Leonardo’s Pizza across the street from the original Boves restaurant? The apples do not fall far from the tree.

At the Boves’ Homecoming on September 8th, I had the opportunity to talk to a Bove cousin who was visiting for the event. After explaining why we were holding signs and protesting, they said that they aren’t surprised to hear about Rick and Mark’s poor landlord and business practices, that this is the reason half the family no longer talks to the other half. This cousin told me that they support our work and that we should continue doing what we were doing.

While I am trying to find that person again, I came across some old Burlington Free Press articles that allude to the greater Bove familial drama, and it turns out that Rick and Mark’s father, Rick Bove Sr (who had a history of predatory landlording practices himeslf) also had a history of poor business practices when he pushed his siblings out of the business.

Text from Burlington Free Press, May 5, 1985:

“In the wake of a family dispute, Dick’s brother and sister, Anthony and Corinne, left the restaurant last year to set up their own business, Anthony’s Italian Foods To Go, across the parking lot. They have filed a court suit asking that Bove’s restaurant be closed.

They claim that other family members have not included them in the day-to-day running of the restaurant. Dick and his brothers Fiore and Ernest claim the formation of the new business is a breach of trust and it’s location amounts to unfair competition.”

Text from Burlington Free Press, January 22, 1985.

“A suit filed in Superior Court in November by Anthony R Bove and Virgina B Compagna asks that the family partnership be dissolved and Bove’s restaurant on Pearl Street closed.

The plaintiffs claim other family members have not included them in the management of the restaurant.”

Text from Burlington Free Press, November 13, 1989.

“Five years ago, after a sometimes bitter family dispute, the two oldest brothers, Ernie and Babe, finally negotiated an out-of-court settlement with dissident family members, including brother Anthony Bove, who started a competing restaurant, now called Anthony’s Italian Foods, just across the parking lot from Bove’s Cafe…

‘It’s over. It’s done with. I don’t want to say anything. It wasn’t a good thing for an Italian Family’, Bove Said.”

Text from Burlington Free Press, October 10, 1991:

The secret changed hands in 1988 when the brothers Bonneau bought Anthony’s from Corinne and Tony Bove who, it is said, wouldn’t even break garlic bread with their kin.

City Market and Healthy Living do not ‘do boycotts’; won’t agree to boycott foods made with coercive labor or predatory business practices

Dec
12

Recently I reached out to two local health food grocers to see if they would remove Bove products from their shelves. They both responded that they do not do boycotts even if local community members are being hurt.

City Market, a Community Coop for folks who don't mind if they sell Slumlord Sauce

City Market
City Market wouldn’t discuss even a hypothetical boycott. When I tried asking upper management if, say, they would remove a produce if it turned out that a company used child slave labor, I was told they ‘don’t deal in hypotheticals’ and only remove products for quality control reasons or if someone was charged with a crime.

City Market refuses to even write a policy about boycotts. They said it would be too difficult to investigate every one of their products, even though we didn’t ask for that and only asked they follow a complaint-based model based on their written values. One of City Market’s values is ‘community’, and it’s worth asking who they include in their definition of ‘community’. From our conversation it does not appear to be low-income and working-class folks.

I asked if we could at the very least inform members of our concerns through tabling. We were told we could not table since we were not an officially recognized organization and our ideas may not align with the newer and wealthier members joining City Market post-South End expansion. 

Healthy Living in South Burlington. The 'Healthy Living' part doesn't include how workers are treated.

Healthy Living
I talked to the CEO of Healthy Living, Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, after reading a VTDigger article about Healthy Living tightening their food standard requirements. It turns out that although they are willing to spend the time to investigate all of the products on their shelves when it comes to sourcing and environmental sustainability, they are unwilling to do research for one business, or just take the testimonies in our blog seriously. Turns out that just like City Market, the plight of low-income tenants doesn’t factor in to whether a product is ‘sustainable’ or ‘good for the community’ or any of that jazz.

On a side note, the owner is friends with Mark Bove, was at the Boves’ Homecoming Event in September where he said he respected our First Amendment rights. He expressed deep appreciation for what we were doing (not enough to ban the products or stop being friends with the Boves though!), and said he would talk to Mark about the blog. Unfortunate that another wealthy/powerful person who has a position to change low-income folks’ lives for the better is too entangled in the wealth-power web of Burlington and Vermont to use their position for the greater good.

If only City Market or Healthy Living were willing to take their respect or appreciation for our advocacy and turn into actual meaningful values-based action, we might be able to put pressure on Rick and Mark Bove to do the right thing instead of letting them continue to prey on low-income families and children. But if our economically comfortable elected officials can’t be moved to act, elected to serve the people and not their own economic and personal interests, should we expect wealthy business owners, whose #1 goal is profit over community, to do the right thing either?

Rick and Mark Bove Sued by Tenant for $1200, Counter-sue for $5k, Lose Both, Don’t Pay Up

Dec
10

A recent hearing by a former Bove tenant who we shall call M ended in a victory for M. Rick Bove came with his lawyer, David Greenberg, and two staff members, Lori Connolly and Emily Mailloux who defended the Boves.

During the case, which lasted for over 1.5 hours, we learned a few things.

  1. The Boves are willing to spend a ton of money on lawyers and staff time to intimidate tenants.
  2. The Boves, along with Lori Connolly, (who as far as we can tell is also president of the Board of the Burlington Choral Society) have no problem stealing money from low-income tenants and making up trumped-up costs to justify taking folks’ deposits. Not only did they make up several of the charges, including complaining about ‘sticky childrens’ fingerprints’ and smelling like animal feces, but they had no problem doing so in a court of law.
  3. The Boves want to distance themselves from their LLCs. During the court case Rick Bove argued that M was not suing him but rather suing his LLCs (including Bove Brothers Realty, owned by Rick AND Mark). 
  4. Rick Bove admitted that the business has atleast one business partner, is operated by him AND his family, and is not just owned by him.
  5. Lori and the Boves will use folks’ desire to get a good landlord review for their next landlord as a means to coerce or punish, as retaliation, tenants who take them to court or complain about their slumlording. This is ethically wrong, if not illegal based on retaliation laws.
  6. The court implied that the Boves are running a shoddy housing business, especially since a landlord with 500 unit should be able to follow basic housing tenant laws. 

Unfortunately over 30 days has passed and the Bove Brothers have not paid M for what she is legally owed. Now she has to file again with the court in hopes of compelling Rick and Mark Bove to pay what they owe. 

They’re not just slumlords, not just thieves, but deadbeats too.

Burlington, a Parking Lot, Boves Housing Violations, 2001 Deja Vu

Oct
19

This boycott started a year ago when I wrote a letter to the editor about why the City of Burlington shouldn’t sell a parking lot to the Boves. While Mayor Weinberger and the majority of City Councilors weren’t bothered enough by the Boves’ history of slumlording, or found the promise of more hotel rooms for out-of-state tourists enticing, I found their lack of historical perspective concerning, especially since many of the councilors were born and raised, or have spent decades, in the Burlington area.

The current deal allows the Boves a reward even after decades of Slumlording. Buy city property for a cheap deal (after the city gave them adjacent land 17 years ago), and in return the Bove Brothers promised to keep their Burlington apartment up to code for 5 years. When I met with the Mayor in the spring and asked him what will happen once those 5 years and up and he had no response. It is clear, from history and their properties outside Burlington, that they will go back to being Slumlords.

After looking through old microfilms at the UVM Library, I came across an article from 2001 about the Boves’ construction on Pearl Street, Victoria Place, and how their terrible landlord behavior has been going on for atleast 2 generations and for nearly 20 years. “Landlord gets money from the city, state, despite 32 violations during 3-year period”. 

As the saying goes, it’s deja vu all over again, and this article also proves once again that Mark and Rick Bove own and operate property, and the pasta sauce company, together.

Some quotes from the article:

“Martin said he had complained six months earlier to his landlord, former City Councilor Richard Bove Sr, that water damage had weakened the plasterboard ceiling – Bove says he put off maintenance because Martin and others hadn’t paid rent in months.”

“The city contributed public land, formerly a parking lot, and tweaked zoning laws to accommodate the Bove project.”

“Bove’s six-unit brick apartment house on George Street where Martin lived has been cited for 32 violations of the city’s minimum housing code in three years…”

“Even as city and state agencies were providing more than $3 million in financial help, donating land, and changing zoning laws to help the Boves, city inspectors repeatedly were finding violations…”

“Asked why the city would help the Boves build new housing when Bove Sr.’s record at George Street was poor, city officials said the Boves agreed to major renovations at the George Street property…”

“He made a commitment to fix these properties, said Michael Monte, director of Burlington CEDO.

“Richard Bove Jr., who manages his father’s properties, said repairs were put off at George Street because several tenants owed back rent…he evicted Martin for that reason…George Senior made no mention of unpaid rents when he evicted Martin in September…he listed “no cause”…Martin said he was evicted because he complained…Martin said he has been unable to find a vacant, affordable apartment, and would be forced to live either in a shelter, or a nightly motel with his two young daughters, one of whom suffers from cystic fibrosis.

“A city inspector who spoke to Bove Sr. in 1998 concluded in a report that the family was delaying maintenance for another reason: They planned to tear down the building on George Street.

“In 1998 at the same address, inspectors found a stove that didn’t work, hols in the walls, broken windows, rotting wood and other problems. The property was cited for 23 violations after that visit.”

“Bove Sr. and his wife own the land for the project. Sons Richard and Mark are developing the property and will be responsible for maintenance when tenants move.

Are the Bove Brothers hiding behind faceless corporation ‘Sterling Corp Tax Credit Fund’?

Oct
17

Yesterday on the Facebook page someone asked about a Bove property. When I looked into it to make sure I had remembered the information correctly, I noticed something I had missed in the past. 5 Bove properties had Principals not named Rick and Mark Bove, but rather Sterling Corp Tax Credit Fund ______. The interesting part is that the name of the registered agent changed from their old business partner to their lawyer, Carl Lisman.

 

 

Yet if you look at other online sources and documents, the owners are still Rick and Mark Bove, Bove Brothers Realty.

 

Stony Creek

The Boves have been hiding a lot for over a decade – why stop now?

But isn’t Mark Bove the Good One?: In 3 Stories

Oct
07

STORY 1

On Friday I went to the Boves’ Friday Flashback dinner. I came by myself, with a sign, standing on the side of the road. At the previous protest, Milton police officers said myself and 4 others could stand a bit on the grass so that we will be out of drivers’ way. Needless to say, Friday was different, as on Tuesday Mark Bove had gone to the police station to request an indefinite ‘No Trespass’ order against me. I can’t state this clearer – I have never been on the property, nor inside their manufacturing building, nor do I want to. Yet this was his response to me holding a sign on the side of the road – easy enough to be viewed as a crazy individual by most people in attendance.

 

Now, I know that this by itself isn’t enough evidence to support my argument. I have two more stories to share.

STORY 2

I created this website the afternoon of August 14th. Less than 5 hours later Mark Bove called my phone, where he kindly asked me from using social media and taking down his logo or else his lawyer would call me, with the assumption that lawsuits will come after. Unfortunately, using lawyers in a heavy-handed manner is a typical strategy of both Bove Brothers. Here’s what he said.

 

 

I was working that night until 930, and thought I’d call in the morning when I woke up to see what exactly his concerns were. Here was what Mark Bove’s lawyer had to say, greeting me before 830am.

 

 

It’s been 6 weeks and I haven’t heard back since about how my First Amendment rights are somehow logo infringement on the Bove brand. Still not sure if the issue is trademark or copyright. Still not sure about the libel claim. Still waiting for proof that the Bove Brothers aren’t in business together at both their pasta sauce company AND their landlording. Maybe it’s purely a coincidence it’s called Bove Brothers Realty and Bove Brothers Property Management and that Mark Bove is a principal on both these companies and that Rick Bove is a principal in the pasta sauce company.

 

Maybe it’s a coincidence that from the beginning Bove’s of Vermont has also been owned by both Mark and Rick. Maybe Mark is a good guy, and even if Rick owns all the slums, he still thought it was a decent thing to go into business with a slumlord, still thought it was decent to share the family name of a business with his slumlord brother. Maybe. Or maybe Mark hides behind Rick and let’s Rick be the ‘bad guy’ so Mark can look like the family-friendly ‘good guy’.

STORY 3

I was going to share this as a separate post, and may do so, but wanted to include it now. Mark Bove got into a property line fight with his neighbor, Patrick. Mark said he owned a decent chunk of his land and parking spaces, and Patrick pointed out that wasn’t the case. Mark asked to buy around 100 square feet of land, even though he already owned 350,000 square feet. In spite, Mark built an incredibly ugly fence to separate the two landowners.

Here’s Patrick in his own words:

Join us for a Bove Boycott Protest Friday October 5th

Oct
03

We would love to see you at the Boves’ manufacturing facility, where they will be hosting their first ‘Flashback Friday’. Here we can let folks know that their pasta sauce empire was built on the backs of hard working low-income families. Questions? Shoot us an email BotcottBoves [@] gmail [dot] com.

Rep Don Turner’s Response to Boves and Low Income Renters

Sep
28

 

After a month of silence, Don Turner’s campaign for LT Governor finally responded to our questions. As a State Rep and Town Manager of Milton, it’s important to ask what relationship Mr Turner has with the Boves, predatory landlords and business owners. I have included the entire disappointing and short conversation below. In short: “Boves is a significant business in the Milton community, and Don is humbled to have the support of their leadership and employees.”

We hope the free food for his kickoff event didn’t play a part in his response, ignoring the dozen+ folks who have come forward to share their stories.

 

Why Did the Boves Illegaly Evict This Woman? (Video)

Sep
25

Mark and Rick Bove, aka Bove Brothers Realty and Bove’s of Vermont Sauces have a history of preying on low-income families.

One brave former tenant, Heather Rayta, tells her story about how the Bove Brothers took all of her belongings and priceless family photos, leaving her illegally homeless. Find more stories and how you can get involved at BoycottBoves.com.