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Residents, local politicians and housing activists gathered on W46th Street this morning to protest the condition of two buildings that have been a living nightmare for apartment renters for years.
The tenants of 410 and 412 W46th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues joined Leah James, director of organizing at Housing Conservation Coordinators, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, City Council Member Erik Bottcher and Paul Devlin, co-chair of the Land Use Committee at Community Board 4 to speak out against rampant neglect by the buildings’ management company, Keystone Property Management.
Residents of both units cited a lack of heat and hot water, leaks, mold, collapsing ceilings, lack of security, rodent and roach infestations, lack of essential repairs, including broken plumbing, holes in the floors and walls, without repair or response from management, who instead continue to charge residents significant rents and regularly harass tenants, demanding additional payment. Continuing to charge rent under such conditions is a violation of the warranty of habitability, according to New York law.
John Reeds, who moved to 412 W46th in 1992, saw his building (then already in hot water with city officials for illegally subletting through AirBnb) fall into disrepair after a 2015 fire that destroyed the roof. Rather than adequately repairing the property, the management elected to put a tarp over the damage, leading to extensive flooding throughout the hallways and collapsed ceilings from water damage inside apartments.
Said Reeds: “Every New Yorker deserves a roof over their head, but we were denied that right when our landlords left us, literally, without a roof, without security, without compassion and safety and a dry place to sleep after a suspicious fire destroyed our roof and our landlord’s callous neglect destroyed a historic, rent-stabilized Hell’s Kitchen apartment building.”
He added, “We repeatedly sought relief that never came. Rainstorm after rainstorm, flood after flood. We begged for help, for someone to rescue us and our sinking building.” After 16 months of enduring unlivable conditions, the tenants were relocated to 410 W46th without warning, with the promise that they would eventually be returned to their rent-stabilized units at 412.
“Not only is that now an impossibility, but the same fate is in store for our current home. The roof needs repairing, the front door remains unlocked, unchecked flooding continues, we endure radiator heat in summer and stretches of no heat or hot water in winter, squatters overtake warehoused apartments, leaving condoms and drug needles in the hall, once again, putting our lives in danger, once again, putting us one step closer to losing our home,” said Reeds.
Fellow tenants John Gargan and Garrett Kimball, who have lived for 16 years at 412 and then 410 W46th Street, echoed Reeds’ concerns, citing unlivable conditions as well as illegal AirBnb rentals by management, leading to significant security issues for tenants.
“Broken contracts and illegal practices have been addressed in court during a harassment case against the property management and owners in which tenants of 410 W46th Street were victorious. However, nothing changed. We hope the owners, superintendents, and management companies of these properties all over the city will make things right to all the tenants who have lived in and call their properties home. Compensation and court orders seem to be the only things they respond to, or that tenants can use as a tool to win their cases and repay the costs so many lost while living here and at their many other slum rental properties,” stated Gargan and Kimball.
The group of politicians and activists, many of whom were present at this weekend’s dedication to Frances Perkins on the very same block, stood steps from Restaurant Row, pointing to the boarded up unit at 412 W46th Street as a live example of the unlivable conditions forced on longtime neighborhood residents.
Representatives from nonprofit organization Housing Conservation Coordinators — who have been working with tenants since the summer of 2021 to demand accountability from Keystone — highlighted the struggle. “The tenants here at 410 W 46th Street have been asking their landlord to make critical repairs for years. They have lived without heat through the coldest months of the year — they have lived without hot water to bathe in and clean with and have lived with health hazards and uninhabitable spaces due to unrepaired water damage. These community members have lived with the harassment of this landlord when they asked, simply, to live in a space that was clean, warm, and safe. These tenants, like all New Yorkers, have a right to safe and sanitary living conditions. These tenants, like all New Yorkers, have a right to live without harassment. This landlord, Keystone Management, needs to stop the harassment and make the repairs immediately. The time for landlord accountability is now!” said Leah James, director of organizing.
Paul Devlin of Community Board 4’s Land Use Committee highlighted a pattern of neglect by many Hell’s Kitchen landlords, citing 19 rent-stabilized and historic buildings across the neighborhood that went through similar deterioration, only to be torn down and rebuilt as market-rate, high-priced luxury apartments. “It’s a pattern of neglect, where it’s easier for a landlord to let a building fall into disrepair and go to the Department of Buildings and ask for it to be torn down rather than going through HPD’s [Housing Preservation Department] emergency repair program to restore and preserve buildings. Here in the Special Clinton Preservation Area — for us, it’s more important to preserve these historic buildings rather than tear them down and displace local residents,” said Devlin.
City Council Member Erik Bottcher agreed that action must be taken by the city. “A safe and healthy home is a human right,” said Bottcher. “These tenants have gone through absolute hell at the hands of their landlord and I’m outraged at the conditions they’ve endured. We’re not going to stand for that in our community, and we’re going to amplify their voices to ensure that the pain they feel is seen and heard and that the appalling actions of this slumlord are punished.”
The management company, which was sued by the city in 2019 for its illegal Airbnb activity, has been summoned to New York state court by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, who are seeking to have a court-appointed administrator repair and operate the building as part of the 7A program. W42ST reached out to Robin Ignico of Keystone Management and has yet to hear back.
Tenant John Reeds, hoping for discernible results from the current litigation, stressed the right of every New Yorker to safe, livable, and affordable housing. “New York City is a collection of neighborhoods — a neighborhood is a collection of homes, and a home is a place where we have the right to safely remain and develop roots and live our lives with dignity and security, no matter what happens on the streets around us. To shop at local stores and nurture friendships with neighbors and to reach out for help if we are suffering. When is enough enough? It’s time to not only save our home but save our neighborhood and hold all landlords in New York City accountable for their disregard of the people that make this city so wonderful, a city they deserve to call their home.”
If you are experiencing similar issues with your housing, the Housing Conservation Coordinators are available for consultation. Contact the Director of Organizing Leah James at (646) 399-5487 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.