Tenants in New York Observer Publisher's Building Say 'Nonstop Construction' Is Meant to Drive Them Out [Updated]

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Image via Google Maps
170 and 174 E. 2nd Street, with adjacent psychic
In December 2013, New York Observer publisher and real estate magnate Jared Kushner bought two connected buildings, 170-174 East 2nd Street. (The buildings are laden with some serious New York history: Allen Ginsberg lived at 170 for three years and wrote "Kaddish" there.) In the intervening nine months, landlord-tenant relations have gone swiftly and steadily south. First, Kushner's company distributed eviction notices to many of the current tenants, with an eye toward converting the apartments into higher-end versions of themselves, according to DNAInfo. That resulted in a nasty and, in some cases, ongoing fight in Housing Court. Now the remaining tenants, many of them living in rent-stabilized apartments, say the constant construction in the building is causing broken tiles, eroding floors, collapsing ceilings and weeks in which their mail has gone undelivered. They allege the chaos is deliberate, part of an attempt to force them out to attract newer, fancier tenants, the kind who don't mind paying $2,658 for a one-bedroom. A group of the remaining tenants are planning a protest today in front of their own buildings.

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Here are Ten Terrifying New York Housing Stories to Mess Up Your Day

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Image via The Worst Room
There are so many ways housing in New York can go wrong: a Craigslist scam, a crazed roommate, a radiator that screams like a jet engine without heating the apartment, or, best case scenario, just an enormous rat king that takes up residence beneath the stove. But no matter how bad you think you've got it, this Reddit thread of terrible apartment stories has something worse. There are wolf spiders and screaming junkies and cockroaches. Thousands and thousands of cockroaches.

There are dozens of stories on the thread so far, many of them involving vermin, poop, and various kinds of roommate mental instability. Here's a sampling. Let's start with the ones that are funny in an awful way and descend downwards, ending with the the stories that make us retch with despair and our souls long to leave our bodies. Gird yourselves:

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Upper West Side Building That Won't Let Rent-Stabilized Tenants Use the Gym Is In All Sorts of Trouble

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Image via Public Advocate's Office
Letitia James, center, rallies with tenants and other elected officials outside Stonehenge Village on Tuesday.
On Monday, all hell broke loose for Stonehenge Village, a luxury apartment building on the Upper West Side, when DNAInfo reported that the management wouldn't allow its rent-stabilized tenants to use a newly-installed gym. About 60 percent of Stonehenge's tenants receive rent stabilization; the building was previously part of the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing program.

A publicist for the Stonehenge company, Marcia Horowitz, defended the no-gym-for-poors policy to DNAInfo, telling them, "The small gym we built and opened this week is different in that it is aimed specifically at new and prospective tenants who expect certain amenities and incentives that are commonly available to market-rate renters."

Now Stonehenge has a much bigger problem on its hands than a handful of disgruntled tenants they clearly don't much like anyway: in a rally in front of the building yesterday, flanked by a number of elected officials, Public Advocate Letitia James called Stonehenge's behavior "appalling" and "segragation," and promised to file a complaint with the New York State Human Rights Division.

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Christian Siriano Debuts First Resort Collection in His Manhattan Apartment!

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Last week, fashion designer and fourth season Project Runway winner Christian Siriano debuted his first resort collection, but the best aspect far surpassed the beautiful posh dresses. Siriano hosted the ultra feminine line entirely in his amazing Fashion District apartment! And if you were lucky enough to step foot into his place, you'd understand why we're using so many exclamation points.

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Campaign Seeks To Keep Maria Montealegre Family Off The Streets

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Shortly after Araceli Cruz and Steven Thrasher told the story of Maria Montealegre, a mother of four who faces eviction for standing up to her landlord, an online campaign has been organized to save the family from homelessness.

Remember that Montealegre's landlord Moshe Samova -- ranked 12th on Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's watchlist of New York's worst slumlords -- started eviction proceedings against Montealegre after she organized tenants to get him to repair and clean the building.

Though she is looking for a new apartment, Cruz and Thrasher report that no one will rent a room to Montealegre and her entire family. She has repeatedly been turned away because "landlords say she is listed as a bad renter."

If she does not find a home by July 31, she will likely go to a shelter with her children, and fears their schooling will suffer as a result.

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In the Future, All Our Apartments Will Have Magical Folding Furniture

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When I first started apartment hunting in New York, a dear friend warned me that it wasn't possible to find a place in Manhattan with cheap rent, decent closet space, and privacy. (He was right. I moved to Brooklyn.)

Everyone who lives in this city has had a similar experience, and many of them have settled for paying exorbitant rents on studio apartments in the East Village. But! One man in SoHo has figured out how to solve the space conundrum with magical folding furniture (see the link for a video). Manhattanites, rejoice, for in the future, your single-room apartments will be able to transform into ten (twenty? thirty?) different setups, including a fancy dining room!

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Love Letters: Now Required for NYC Apartments?

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Found the perfect apartment by skimming the obits?

Well, the New York Times has some advice on how to sink the deal on any abode -- by writing the seller a love letter, that is.

The Times' Appraisal column begins with the love story of David Motta and Michele Pagnotta. The husband and wife met six years ago while walking their dogs in the Upper West Side.

"Slowly, after many walks, they started dating" and now, with the publication of this article, have also fueled the delusions of romcom fans everywhere.

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New York: Enemy of Newlyweds?

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If you have just gotten hitched, congrats and STAY OUT of New York!

In a recent study, Rent.com looked at 25 American cities to figure out which were best for newlyweds. New York didn't even make the top ten.

The cities that did? Austin, Texas; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Phoenix, Arizona; Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.

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The Rent is Too Damn High, So New Yorkers Are Buying Homes

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Jimmy McMillan might be on to something: a real estate research firm has noticed that more New Yorkers are trying to buy apartments -- because the rent is too damn high.

As it turns out, the perfect storm of inflated rents and low interest rates has pushed would-be renters into the market, according to DNAinfo.

Many home-seekers have complained that their rents have ballooned anywhere from 10 to 20 percent, so they see purchasing as the only economic option.

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Surprise, Surprise: New York Becomes Even Less Affordable

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Kristian Stevens
Manhattan living has become more overpriced than before, even though there are more open apartments than in January 2011, a new study has found.

Citi Habitats, one of the town's largest real estate firms, says that rents have gone up 5 percent compared to last year.

"While rents often decrease during the winter months, this year seems to be an exception, and apartments continue to rent for increasingly high prices," Citi says in a statement.

(Groan.)

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