When the trouble came to 90 Elizabeth Street, it arrived quietly, in a flurry of white papers. They blanketed the mailboxes and the front doors of many of the tenants in the modest Chinatown apartment building, a forbidding snowdrift of eggshell, piled with angry black type. When 43-year-old Betty Eng got home one spring afternoon last year, she found one waiting for her, too. It was a lawsuit, filed by her new landlords against her, her younger brother, her father, and her mother. Eng's mother, who is in her eighties, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and had recently moved into a nursing home. Eng's father had been dead since 2010.
Photos by Jena Cumbo 90 Elizabeth Street, one of many NYC apartments with rent-controlled tenants.
The suit said that the Engs, who had lived in their apartment since 1970, a year before Betty's birth, weren't actually living there full-time, and thus were not legally entitled to the rent-stabilized unit. It warned that an eviction proceeding would be initiated against them. The suit also alleged that the Engs hadn't been paying the rent. But Betty had been paying, she says, sending the checks through certified mail. Each month, Marolda Properties refused to accept them. They piled up, uncashed.
"They were refusing them," Eng says. "The envelopes would just come back."More »