After a prolonged legal battle, tenants at 410 W46th Street who have lived in unsafe conditions for years now have something to celebrate.
On November 8, a housing court judge ruled that the situation at the Hell’s Kitchen building was dangerous to its tenants’ “life, health, and safety” — opening the doors for the Housing Preservation Department to appoint a special administrator to perform much-needed repairs and renovations.
“The tenants — amazing neighbors who have put up with appalling conditions for years — and the community have won a major battle here!” said David Stuart, President of the HK45/46 St Block Association. “After a multi-year fight, slumlords Fred and Daniel Obehshalom [also known as Shalom] — consistently the worst landlords in NYC, who have been harassing tenants at 410 W46th Street and blighting our community for years — have finally been held accountable for their actions.”
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It has been two years since the Housing Preservation Department first brought its case against Daniel Shalom, a West Coast landlord with business ties to Johnathan Santana, who topped Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ worst landlords list last year.
In late October, the city ordered Shalom to pay $1.1 million in fines and penalties related to three of his buildings in Hell’s Kitchen. The fines won’t go directly to repairing 410 W46th Street. Instead, the special administrator will use the tenants’ rent money and government loans to make the repairs.
Jeffrey LeFrancois, the chair of Manhattan Community Board 4, said that for the building’s tenants and their advocates, “this is excellent news and a long time coming.” But while last week’s ruling is a significant legal victory, tenants are uncertain of when anything will change in their day to day lives.
Tenant David Silverberg moved in right before the pandemic, and since then has been doing repairs on his own. He put potted flowers on the front steps of the building and repainted his apartment’s walls himself.
But there were some things he could not fix. He said the building loses heat “every winter,” and he stays bundled up in his bedroom with an electric heater running to keep warm.
In her ruling on the 7A action, Judge Norma Jean Jennings noted “at the conclusion of the trial there were over 300 violations” issued for 410 W46th Street, including several for “lack of heat and hot water.”
Tenant John Reeds testified to the dangerous conditions in court. He said that the building’s problems included rodents, bugs, leaking ceilings, cracked tiles, sinking floors, broken lights, long periods of no hot water, squatters and more. Reeds testified that when he complained about these conditions, he was harassed by the building’s management, making him feel “nervous” in his own home.
Jeffrey LeFrancois said that the ruling sends landlords the message that “harassment is not an acceptable behavior. You can’t just harass someone out of their home.” But he acknowledged that the ruling doesn’t mean the community board’s work is over. “I don’t think that just because this decision is rendered, we stop paying attention,” he said. “That’s not our style.”
In the coming months, tenants and community leaders will be looking for both immediate fixes and more permanent solutions. John Reeds says that the building needs a new boiler, and while it may take months for it to be replaced, he expects the 7A administrator will make sure the current boiler doesn’t run out of oil, which has happened several times in the past few years. “I’m hoping it’s going to be a winter with heat,” said Reeds.
Before moving to 410 W46th Street, Reeds had lived for decades at number 412 — another Shalom-owned building. When a fire burned a hole in the roof of that building, it was left unrepaired, covered with leaking tarps, and he and other tenants were moved out.
He was told the move would be temporary — but six years later, Reeds is still living next door to his old home. Despite the poor conditions at both buildings, Reeds has chosen to stay. “I’ve been a part of that neighborhood all of these years,” he said. “I live in one of the best neighborhoods in the world, and I wanted to be there.”
Now that a 7A administrator will be appointed for 410 W46th Street, Reeds has mixed feelings. He is grateful, but also “a little bit angry” that it took this long. He hopes that the city will also take steps to repair his old home at 412. In the meantime, it sits boarded up and empty. “It’s such a shame,” said Reeds.
Robin Ignico, an employee of Shalom’s and the tenant relations manager for 410 W46th Street, declined to comment for this article.