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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.

An abandoned apartment where squatters have been taking up residence at 410 W46th Street. Photo: Naty Caez

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

Marc McBarron Kessler and John Reeds are hoping for improved building conditions as the residence undergoes ongoing litigation against its current management. Photo: Naty Caez

Records show, the properties to be owned by 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.”

The open window where intruders have broken into 410 W46th Street. Photo: Naty Caez
The basement where Marc and John say squatters have taken up residence. Photo: Naty Caez

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. 

Inside 410 W46th Street, ceilings are crumbling so badly that little plaster is left in places. Photo: Naty Caez

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. 

An abandoned apartment in 410 W46th Street, Photo: Naty Caez
The vandalized mail boxes of 410 W46th St. Photo: Naty Caez

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. 

An apparently blood-stained floor mat in the stairwell. Photo: Naty Caez

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.”

Local politicians led protests in March about the conditions at 410-412 W4th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

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 Ignico. 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?’” 

John and Marc show W42ST the damaged roof at 412 W46th Street. They remain determined to stay in their home at 410. Photo: Naty Caez

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9 Comments

  1. I am so glad this is finally being reported accurately. The failure of the City to ensure these residents are getting heat and basic safety is outrageous. Everyone was happy to get in front of a camera (I called upon the administration to step in immediately) and pontificate. But those who have the responsibility to hold agencies to account have failed miserably. It has been heartbreaking to see these tenants be repeatedly assaulted. Back in the day, effective City representatives would have an onslaught of agencies descend upon the landlords with no retreat, with no slow walking. Senator Hoylman is doing the right thing. The City should have been aggressive and relentless. Unfortunately, HCC, a formerly dependable neighborhood advocacy organization is useless. Good for you Marc and John. Keep up the fight. I’ll continue to assist in my limited position.

  2. At a certain point a structure like that becomes a tear down. More trouble to repair.
    Perhaps 410 -412 is at that point? Either way whomever is living there would have to be relocated for a very long time.

  3. TBR-1 that may be the point to get it to no tenants and tear down condition? As two lots would make a great place to build a hotel, rental, boutique rentals? However that’s no reason for legal tenants to be driven from their home like this=illegally by not providing heat, hot water

  4. Both John and Marc are vital members of this community. You can find them volunteering to pick up trash in the neighborhood, or putting on low-cost professional productions for those that can’t afford a Broadway ticket. In other words: they are Hell’s Kitchen. On the other hand, I have no idea who Robin Ignico and California-based Keystone Management are, except that it’s an irresponsible absentee slumlord and corporate vermin that look to profit off misfortune. Get rid of these parasites. I am beside myself witnessing the inability of elected official to actually come to the aid of their constituencies- that are without heat! While I appreciate the effort- it just ain’t enough!!! After so many years with this situation unchanged this reflects poorly on people who will ask us to vote for them…. DO SOMETHING!!! Not a meeting… Not another petition… Not another hearing… but heat and safety, it’s in front of your eyes, you’re looking at it -you signed up for the job- do something!!!!

  5. Thank you, Albert, for expressing what many of us are feeling as we read this article. And thank you, W42ST for pulling back the foul curtain on the evil reality of the NYC illegal evictions game. Because that’s what this is, pure and simple.

    Here’s some food for thought: “In 2020 and 2021, including all New York City Housing Court cases where tenants alleged a disruption of services, a lack of repairs, harassment, illegal lockouts or an uninhabitable apartment, tenants filed over 16,450 cases seeking relief. Despite the fact that cutting off utilities to evict tenants, harassment, and locking out tenants without a court order are criminal matters, the NYPD made just 39 arrests for the crime of unlawful eviction, NYS court data shows.” (https://www.thecity.nyc/housing/2022/2/17/22937540/nyc-landlords-illegal-evictions-arrests)

    These slumlords and their henchmen gamble (and usually win) that traumatized tenants won’t have the resources nor the will to fight. As for our elected officials and law enforcement — when there are laws on the books protecting citizens, UPHOLD them. And if the laws need to be strengthened, work to CHANGE them.

    Most of all, thank you Marc McBarron Kessler and John Reeds, for fighting the good fight — as always, not just for yourselves, but for the voiceless ones. I’m honored to live in your New York City.

  6. Right on Albert! These tenants have been failed by those elected to help. The slow walk has been shocking. And STILL they live with no heat. Has one of the city officials visited the apartment in the last two months? No. Has one of the city elected officials provided a hotel room or even a heater? No. Has HPD been pressured by city elected officials to fix the damn boiler? No.

    Remember this when they come around all smiley faced asking for your vote, folks. You could be next.

  7. Thank you for this.
    This is horrible.
    Sadly there are many other NYC tenants in such awful situations and have been for years.

    Elected officials are faux progressives – they care only about restaurant street shacks for the restaurant industry while small stores suffer; enabling developers to build while turning a blind eye to loss of housing/unsafe housing etc; and Citibike/bike lanes while bus and subway service get worse.

    Sorry to seem unsympathetic here – but message to State Senator Hoylman…
    I am a life-long New Yorker, taxpayer and Democratic voter.
    Until ALL New Yorkers live in safe housing and have food to eat – no I am not interested in paying for the bill you are sponsoring – for New Yorkers to pay to ensure legal representation for “asylum” seekers who just crossed the border and came to NYC….

  8. The owners are basically doing “harassment by neglect”, hoping that the legal tenants leave both buildings so that they can then sell the properties for a developer to put up a high-rise. The landlord should be in jail – they will pay the taxes on the properties so as not to lose them, but will never pay any fines from violations, and basically looking to cash in once everybody leaves. They are low-lifes, and the 7A Administration process should be forced to proceed quickly so that basic repairs are made, the squatters are removed, and the building secured. Unfortunately, there a lot of buildings in the five boroughs like this, with dirtbag landlords that belong in jail. Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

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