After years of landlord neglect, and even a political press conference highlighting its horrors, the beleaguered residents of 410 W46th Street are still fighting for basic safe and secure living conditions as winter approaches.
The building, and its now-derelict neighbor 412, has become a symbol of the difficulty of holding landlords to account. On Monday W42ST walked through the broken-down building with two of its tenants, finding wide open doors, windows and mailboxes, darkened hallways, what appeared to be blood on the staircases, peeling floors and crumbling apartments reminiscent of a bombed-out war zone.
“We finally have heat again,” said John Reeds, who has lived in Hell’s Kitchen, and the 410-412 W46th Street complex for over 30 years. “We had no heat and hot water for days and days,” added Marc McBarron Kessler, who lives with John and has long been sounding the alarm about illegal conditions at the two apartment buildings, which have been largely unliveable for the better part of a decade.
Records show, the properties to be under the control of Tenant Relations and Leasing Manager Robin Ignico and California-based Keystone Management. They are in the midst of ongoing litigation under the 7A program, which would put the building’s operation in the hands of court-appointed administrators and use rents to make repairs. But Marc and John said that with expectation of any accountability for Ignico far gone, the most immediate needs were ongoing health and safety issues that need in-depth, real-time assistance from the city.
“People have been climbing up the scaffolding and breaking into the apartments through that window,” said John, pointing to a window without glass on the second floor. “There are also people squatting in the basement.”
As we followed them into the building, Marc and John pointed out the heavily full trash cans outside – “it used to be a loose tunnel of trash, with rats everywhere,” said John, adding that the cans were a change from the beginning of the 7A trial. Broken, wide-open mailboxes and a door that doesn’t latch shut unless significantly manipulated were major security issues, said Marc and John. Along with a fellow tenant — who asked to remain anonymous — they told us that they frequently witnessed intruders push their way into the building to take up residence inside.
Further along the hallway, there was an unpleasant surprise. “This is new – someone must have just broken in,” said John of an abandoned first-floor unit with a caved-in ceiling and crumbling walls. “This wasn’t unlocked before.” Other empty apartments – some previously illegally rented through Airbnb or left open to squatters – had been padlocked by the department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD). “But this is new,” said Marc.
It is part of an ongoing pattern of vandalism and damage to their home, he added. Unlawful evictions have driven out the majority of the building’s tenants — just five apartments of the 15 units are legally occupied. John and Marc previously resided in 412 W46th Street, surviving a 2015 fire that destroyed the building’s roof, before being rehoused in 410.
A makeshift tarp strewn over the roof still remains after seven years. “And still, there are fire hazards on this roof – look at all the cigarette butts,” said John, noting that the door to the roof was also unlocked. “Someone’s definitely been here,” he added, pointing to a pillow and blanket left on the roof and what appeared to be blood on a discarded floor mat on the staircase.
As they wait for what could be a lengthy resolution from the 7A trial, in which John testified to the state of the building, John and Marc are frequently asked why they “just can’t move.” “I’ve been here for 30 years,” said John. “I moved into that apartment 30 years ago. I lived here with my [late] partner, whose ashes are at the church down the block. I’ve been a part of this neighborhood for a long time.”
The condition of 410 and 412 W46th Street was highlighted in a March press conference with, among others, City Council Member Erik Bottcher, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Paul Devlin, co-chair of Community Board 4’s Land Use Committee, and Leah James, director of organizing at Housing Conservation Coordinators.
Bottcher’s office told W42ST: “Our number one goal is to get control of this building out of this slumlord’s hands. After months of effort, the Article 7A Housing Court Proceeding is finally underway and the tenants are getting their day in court. When the proceedings conclude, we’ll need the judge to rule in the tenants’ favor and appoint an independent administrator who will renovate these buildings, give the tenants new leases, and provide the safe and stable home that the tenants need and deserve. In the meantime, HPD needs to make all immediate repairs through its Emergency Repair Program. This is a long and difficult road but the community is united behind these tenants and will stand with them every step of the way, until justice is served.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman, who has also been involved in the fight to make the building habitable, told W42ST: “I spoke to the managing agent last week about the lack of heat. Unfortunately, just days after our conversation, the heat went out again. At this point it is clear that the landlord is unable to provide a safe and habitable living environment for the tenants, and I call on Housing Preservation and Development to immediately step in and make the emergency repairs that are so desperately needed.”
Hoylman said that he will be working with prosecutors from District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s new Tenant Protection Unit to investigate. HPD also told W42ST that they were looking into the incident, adding: “All New Yorkers deserve a safe and healthy place to live and we are working to improve conditions in this building. HPD is performing repairs to resolve immediate emergency issues left unaddressed by the building owner in addition to pursuing one of its strongest enforcement mechanisms through ongoing litigation that would allow the appointment of a new building administrator who will take responsibility and make the necessary repairs.” W42ST also reached out to Robin Ignico of Keystone Management and will update if we hear back.
For now, John and Marc are taking each day as it comes, and living in apprehension of the next issue in their home. “It’s not only the amount of the outages that we’ve had,” said John, “it’s, ‘when’s the next bomb gonna drop?’ And you’re just living in this constant state of, ‘oh my god, is there heat? Is there hot water?’”
In a previous version of this story, we stated that Robin Ignico was an owner of the buildings mentioned. Because of the lack of transparency of ownership of the LLCs involved, it is impossible to determine individual ownership. Ignico is Tenant Relations and Leasing Manager for the properties and in a court affidavit in September 2019 said “I am responsible for handling all matters relating to tenants, including leasing, tenant complaints, and compliance with Code and other regulations.”