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When Tom Mayo-Smith left his Hell’s Kitchen apartment for a long Labor Day weekend, he had no idea that he would return to a nightmare. Someone had broken into his apartment, trashed the space and left disturbing notes and symbols on walls and belongings, leaving many of his valuables but taking sentimental items. 

Tom Mayo-Smith at his apartment in Silver Towers — “It was almost like a Netflix psycho documentary.” Photo: Phil O’Brien

“It was almost like a Netflix psycho documentary,” said Mayo-Smith of the ordeal, which began when he left town for a trip to Tennessee on September 1 and returned to Silver Towers on W42nd Street on September 6 to a ransacked apartment. “There was evidence that at least one and maybe multiple people had been squatting in my apartment for at least three days,” he added. Mayo-Smith believes the intruder or intruders entered the apartment on September 3 based on the activity on his streaming devices.

Walking through his overturned apartment, Mayo-Smith observed: “What is particularly alarming about it was the confusing things they did and didn’t take while in my apartment — a lot of my stuff was intact, for example the TV wasn’t broken, they took my phone but not my laptop, they took my scooter, but left cash in the desk — and they left weird notes everywhere.”

The notes around the apartment read “25 More Moves 2 Go!”. There were pillows with tally marks slashed on them, an elaborate deck of card arrangements, many of Mayo-Smith’s tax documents laid out on display and commando strip coat hangers arranged in strange shapes on the wall. 

Mayo-Smith returned to his apartment at Silver Towers to find this scene on his previously clean coffee table. Photo supplied

The perpetrator had also broken into Mayo-Smith’s safe, stolen the key, and left with a “number of items off of my mantle,” he added. “Some were valuable and some weren’t. In particular, a clay paw mold from my golden retriever Lucy was taken. I recently had to put her down and the vet imprinted her paw into some clay before cremation. The theft of this item is uniquely infuriating.” 

How did the stranger enter his apartment? “My main gripe with security at my building is that my lock shouldn’t be the first and only line of defense,” said Mayo-Smith. “If you have a pizza box and know an apartment number, you can get in.” 

Front door locks are “designed to delay someone from getting in” and but can be picked without a way to trace the break-in. “It used to be very hard to pick locks 10 or so years ago, but now there’s like a whole subreddit on this, and there are several tutorials on YouTube as to how to pick my particular lock,” said Mayo-Smith. [W42ST confirmed the existence of these videos, but has not linked to them].

Upon discovering the state of his apartment, “I immediately notified building security and called the police, and have been dealing with it ever since,” said Mayo-Smith. “The day after I was robbed I got a call from the head of security for Silver Towers. He said, ‘this is Tom Higgins, he’s a former detective.’ And he asked me 25 times in a row if I was illegally subletting. That’s a pretty typical interrogation tactic, the idea behind it is to just slowly wear the interrogee down and see if their answers change.” While Mayo-Smith has not sublet his apartment or used it for Airbnb, he believes there may be residents in the building who are, though it was hard to confirm in a large building like Silver Towers. Subletting is a violation of the lease without the owner’s advance written consent as required by Real Property Law §226-b and in accordance with the provisions of the Rent Stabilization Code and Law.

Since the break-in, Mayo-Smith says that has had little support from building management or the NYPD. He acknowledged that “in a police precinct which covers 50k people, the detective probably prioritizes violent robbery, 1st/2nd degree instances of grand larceny and generally ‘hotter cases’ — the crime scene was 24hrs old when reported — this is going to go to the bottom of the stack.” The detective told him that “at best, DNA evidence will come back in five months and depends upon if this person was arrested and the DNA aligns with someone, and then they put out a wanted notice from there.” He added: “Even if they apprehend this person, the case will have to be litigated because there’s always the chance that they say, ‘I know Tom well, he gave me permission.’” 

W42ST reached out to the NYPD and received the following statement from a spokesperson regarding the incident: “There is a complaint report on file for a burglary that occurred on Thursday, September 1, 2022 at 1415hrs inside an apartment at 620 West 42nd Street within the confines of the 10th Precinct. It was reported to police that unknown individual(s) entered the apartment and removed approximately $3,494 worth of items and fled.  There are no arrests at this time and the investigation is ongoing.”

Mayo-Smith lives at Silver Towers on W42nd Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

While he’s not optimistic that the case will be solved, Mayo-Smith is dismayed at the lack of support from Silver Towers building management.  “There’s really no incentive for them to look into this,” he said, adding that the law firm representing Silverstein Properties, which operates Silver Towers sent him the following:

“In response to your email, we have undertaken an investigation including an audit of the use of keys accessing your apartment. The only key found to have accessed your apartment since prior to September 1, 2022, is the key issued to you. Further we, like the NYPD, have examined your front door and have found no sign of forced entry. In addition, there are no unaccounted for individuals who we have noticed accessing the building over the past 10 days.” Mayo-Smith counters this assessment, noting that he spoke with the head of building security, they could only pull roughly 40 hours of footage, and the cameras in the building do not show Mayo-Smith’s apartment floor.  W42ST reached out to Silverstein Properties for a response and will update if we hear back. 

Police on the scene after Mayo-Smith returned to his apartment. Photo supplied

Left without other options, Mayo-Smith has found his own temporary solutions to prepare himself. “I bought a security system for my apartment — motion cameras go for about $60. So if this does happen again, my apartment is now more than capable of catching this person.” Meanwhile, he is living out the remainder of his lease. “My relationship with building management is obviously quite bad and I will probably not renew. The building is great, but security is awful.” 


Have you had similar issues with your building and apartment security in Hell’s Kitchen? Please email sarah@w42st.com

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35 Comments

  1. Horrible. Sympathy to Tom Mayo-Smith. This kind of thing is frightening and not what one wants in the building where one lives. Management should make a greater effort to get to the bottom of the situation.

  2. I live in a Silverstein property. 100% the front desks do not screen visitors, especially during the dinner food delivery rush period. They simply ask for an apartment number, and send up anyone carrying a bag or box that might hold food

  3. This is such a nightmare.

    Thank you to Sarah for reporting and bringing attention to this, and to Tom for sharing his story. It is a good reminder that anything can happen.

    For building security to interrogate him like that is wildly inappropriate and infuriating. I hope they do something about this. No incentive for management to do anything when few people know about it. I can’t imagine others in the building feel great about this or feel safe renewing their leases. Maybe risk of losing tenants and $$ will provide some incentive.

  4. I’m surprised there is no security cameras placed throughout the lobby’s and hallways. Very strange. Also wonder if any of his neighbors have installed their own cameras in front of their doors. This would have been helpful also.

    1. The issue is that management is unwilling to thoroughly analyze existing footage and the NYPD seems swamped with other cases.

      Management really has no obligation to push this case forward so long as they’re “cooperating” with NYPD and is they’re obviously not incentivized to prove their own building was burglarized due to negligent security.

  5. What good is a doorman building if they do nothing? And the rent is higher for this reason.
    The property owner, Silverstein in this case, should be financially liable. Fat chance with the real estate owners bribing out elected officials. Oh, excuse me, donating to their election campaigns.
    At least in a building without a doorman a tenant has to ring them in. Actually, more secure.

  6. Incredibly scary and infuriating to read this. It’s one thing for this to happen but the way Silverstein is handling this is particularly atrocious and additionally traumatizing.

  7. Rent ain’t cheap at the Silver Towers. Nice to know they don’t give a rat’s ass about their tenants. It’s now all about covering their ass from potential lawsuits from the crappy security procedures.

  8. I’m so glad I don’t live at the Silver Towers anymore this place is trash now. The security is horrible, and management doesn’t care about its tenants. I’m grateful for the concierges like Alex, Freddy, Jonathon, Dino and Richie when I was there those guys were always on top of these things. All I hear is negative things about Silvertowers now.

  9. You can’t even go on vacation anymore without having to worry whoever thought a thing like this can happen I’m not surprised we have no more cops hardly no more nothing I’m sorry this happened to you

  10. Happened to me twice while away on a day or two trips. Ate my food, took random things, burned candles, who knows what, etc.
    Reporting was important but the having the police finger print and all made a mess in itself on top of it. No doorman but have a security team in the building. Turns out it was a renter at the end of the hall, likely peering out through their peephole. Like many experiences it will take some time to shake off the creepiness.

  11. Who did you vote for? It’s always my first question. If you vote Democrat, stop complaining. You got what you voted for.

    1. Bullcrap. This is a landlord situation deceiving the tenants that the building provides security with a doorman but doesn’t question interlopers.
      And guess who the wealthy landlords support and vote for.
      Your head is screwed on backwards. And do you blame the Democrats for rainy days also?

  12. That’s really shameful and show’s a lack of gratitude from these people! This guy pat’s a lot of money a month for this apartment, and he get’s treated like a LIAR!! buyer beware anybody looking to rent an apartment from these people stay FAR AWAY!!

  13. I don’t live in Tom’s bldg. I had a friend who lived in a Silver Towers in Queens. I was always able to walk right in past the desk person. I live in Rockville Centre, L.I. A “good” neighborhood. I’m in a bldg recently taken over by Fairfield, a terrible landlord. They kicked the super out w/1 mo’s notice so they could rent his apt. Someone has come in to my apt.THREE times. 1st 2 x’s I wasn’t sure about what was taken-once was a piece of jewelry,-still missing. Bur day before Thanksgiving last year someone came in & took a gold bracelet. I always kept it in the same place, knew EXACTLY where it was. The ONLY other person who has a key is the super who lives I know not where. I reported it to mgt. who couldn’t care less. Fairfield has removed our steel front doors, put in closet-type wooden ones. If we alter the door in any way (another lock) we have to pay an exorbitant amt. to them. I had a medico lock on my steel door, worked fine for all the yrs I was here. I got locked into my apt. when they 1st took over, couldn’t open lock to get out! I called the after hrs emergency #-got music & “next available operator” announcement. Finally they sent the super-who did NOTHING. Told me to call locksmith & left! After 3 tries I got a 24hr locksmith, paid $150 cash! The robbery looks like someone coming in & cherry picking what they wanted as for a gift. This was my mom’s gold bracelet, it was day before Thanksgiving. Super saw me leave, waved to me, knew I wasn’t there. I was gone for about an hr. No bracelet when I came home. I’ve been here 46 yrs, only had one other robbery from an apt. I rented for my mom who never moved in. Different mgt, different super-he was weird & fired, He took $45 from my purse which I left in the very locked apt. I wish I had caught this latesr piece of work-WHOEVER it was, on a security camera.

  14. I happen to be a doorman in the Sutton Place area. We keep keys for every apartment in a lockbox for emergencies (fires, plumbing leaks, floods), for when people lock themselves out (quite common), housekeepers/dog walkers/cat sitters, and for visiting guests (very, very common). The only way the intruder could have gotten into your apartment that easily is that a doorman gave an emergency key to somebody who misrepresented himself/herself as a friend or guest. For my building, each person who has a guest must fill out an access permission form prior to the guest’s arrival, so we know we have permission to let them in. If they are away, and a guest is due to arrive, they must call us ahead of time, and we will set up the form. Somebody at security dropped the ball, and this tragedy was a result. You have my sympathies. You deserve better than this for the high rent you pay. Glenn the Doorman in Brooklyn, NY.

  15. Sounds like an inside job
    Some one had access to your keys obviously
    The neighbors should have seen or heard something.
    Yes, bring management and security to court.
    For future reference on food deliveries, the security and management can set up a table in the lobby with the concierge and the tenants can come down and get food. Therefore no need to send anyone up to the apartments. There will be no strangers lurking about since the concierge is not able to verify with the intercom system to the apartments who is going up and down. It should be a simple job but they don’t care and refuse to do the proper job.
    Now I think I’m going to get a security camera for my apartment.
    God bless and best wishes to all honest people

    1. “Some one had access to your keys obviously”
      Hmm I don’t think so. My door uses a CLIQ locking system which provides an audit trail of every key used for the door. The door was not legitimately opened via key while I was away. These logs are stored on an embedded chip within the door and would be tricky to modify.

      “The neighbors should have seen or heard something.”
      I’ll be reaching out to neighbors soon now that its clear management/NYPD isn’t willing/able to move the needle. I was under the impression this had already been done.

      “bring management and security to court”
      Proving a landlord should be liable for the actions of a 3rd party is tricky and likely very expensive, but not impossible.

      “no need to send anyone up to the apartments”
      I completely agree with this.

      “camera for my apartment”
      I would recommend one which is triggered by motion and automatically uploads clips to the cloud via wifi. Would also recommend a “smart doorbell”.

      1. Just as an FYI – those keys are hackable in a way that opens the door without triggering an entry (known issue since 2009). Also in Silver Towers, so not surprised but disappointed.

  16. Probably friends acquaintances or enemies..the people probably knew him..It also goes to should the poor management at these new real estate international corporations.

      1. Terribly sorry about all this.
        There is a class of criminal, bred by the Information Age, highly intelligent and probably sociopathic that may be responsible. They select a victim and then terrorise him. Usually the victim never catches a glimpse his tormentors but has feeling of being watched. ONE OF THE KEY MODUS OPERANDI IS THE HOME BREAK IN WHILE THE VICTIM IS AWAY AND (A) INTENTONALLY MAKING IT OBVIOUS THERE WAS A BREAK IN AND (B) ROBBERY FOR PERSONAL GAIN WAS DEFINITELY NOT A MOTIVE. Objects are usually moved around or disturbed in some way. They usually operate in teams and are mentally gifted ( IQ 130+) The highly gifted group (IQ 150+ SBIS?)has been found to have a higher incidence of sociopathy, strict adherence to a personal a code of conduct considered anti-social.
        They spend much time studying their victim with an almost voyeuristic glee. One year before attacking is not uncommon. It probably begins with cyberstalking using methods known to identity thieves.
        This raises some questions. How did they know your emotional vulnerabilities? They seemed to know what exit strategy to use. That you would be away for 3 days. Did you post about this trip on social media? Did you post about your pets death? Cybercriminals love social media and Facebook is filthy with attackers I have found. Identity thieves love tax returns. The cryptic symbology of the playing cards, etc, is common on the internet (e.g., in esoteric studies, playing cards are considered satanic. This very bright, at times narcissistic perp likes to be seen as smarter than most and so pursues esoterica) If you live then you are Affluent, a group targeted by those who see themselves as Robin Hoods. Personally, I think they are behind these cases we hear about where someone finds a hundred thousand extra dollars deposited in their account ‘mistakenly’.
        I have no comprehensive solutions to offer. You should wipe your social media clean, shutting down your accounts. That will only help a little. Rather than focus on blood work the police should have dusted the place top to bottom for prints.taking your PC to a computer forensics service might detect any tampering and protect you from surveillance.
        It’s creepy to think they may be reading the posts to this story and gloating! Just remember their ultimate aims are control or power and harassing you to the point of nervous breakdown.
        Don’t give them that victory!
        Good Luck!

  17. So sorry to hear about your nightmare robbery! Please speak to a tenant attorney. Check your lease carefully and any promotional materials and ads from the landlord regarding claims of security and a safe building. Reach out to your neighbors and consider forming a tenants association. While you may think you have no recourse an attorney who deals with tenant issues may find you have a very strong case. Good luck!

  18. Here is or only defense in these situations: If you are not going to move to a locked down building, i.e. those that don’t let people in unless you say they can, then the solution is simple: Get to know your neighbors. This may seem like very old habits, but we will in a Silverstein building and have told our neighbors that if they hear anything while we are gone to call someone downstairs and have security check it out.

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