Decision Time for SoHo

“Vote early and vote often”

— Al Capone

For candidates that will work for SoHo and have a proven record of accomplishments, here are the issues and here are the right candidates:

  1. Developers looking to get fat off of the pillaging of our community, reject the recent push to provide so-called Affordable Housing — The SoHo-NoHo Development Plan. It has become a fake issue. Few, if any of us knows the game. As had been done with the 111 Varick development, the developer hires an expensive attorney, gets the Community Board to approve their building, agrees to put aside affordable units — and there is no follow up. Maybe HPD puts the affordable units on their site, maybe they don’t. There is never any assistance from the approved building’s rental office, no list to apply to, no follow-up from HPD when you inquire, and zero help from the Community Board. When I tried to initially get information, Community Board 2 wasn’t even aware that this particular project was in their catchment area. So, with a big push to develop SoHo, how are those “Affordable Housing” units going to be doled out? I’ve heard that a big-wig from Chinatown and Edison Parking, an aggressive real estate company from New Jersey are main factions behind this. Who’s from SoHo?
  2. Abuse and harassment continue to be used by landlords in order to evict tenants in SoHo. And this directly affects Affordable Housing — and something can be done about it. Laws need to be passed which prevent landlords in Holdover Actions from charging rent AND causing tenants to pay legal fees to defend themselves. THAT is how landlords force tenants out. It is abusive and tenants should not be bankrupted in order to keep their apartments. In my case, in order to keep my apartment for my family (while in prison for writing about the now-convicted corrupt Hamptons D.A. Thomas Spota) the landlord, created a fictitious problem and got us into Supreme Court for having done approved interior construction 30 years before. The bullshit case put us $500,000 in debt while we also were required to pay rent. Should this be permitted? Because the plan, which works, is to use high-priced lawyers to force tenants to pay rent AND pay a lawyer. Landlords must face fines of up to $50,000 and one year in jail for using this criminal ploy.
  3. No one has done anything about the traffic dangers downtown — especially around and near the Holland Tunnel as well as along Broome and Watts Street. Pedestrians have been hit by vehicles and Traffic Agents protect motorists and ignore pedestrians, even with baby carriages. I was hit by a car with no registration and no insurance — yet the police Detectives would not even investigate. No more talking. I’ve been complaining about this for 35 years. Time to act. Time to hand out moving violations for vehicles blocking crosswalks. Assign 10 agents permanently to write summonses. And, after a few summonses make it a criminal matter. Those without insurance or registration should be arrested around these specific routes. If people want to make money from SoHo — protect our residents!
  4. Here are a few comments about the so-called VCF, the Victims Compensation Fund. The arm of the World Trade Center entity that pays out claims to those of us who were impacted by the terrorist attack in 2001. Many of us have never received any award for our health impact. The Fund is incompetent and once they received the $10 Billion injection due to Jon Stewart’s media event, the money came in and they paid each other’s salaries. How’s 20 years from the event and 3 years from putting up with countless phone calls to find out what — if anything — they are doing? I was actually asked to provide a form that I’d submitted almost a year before. In the meantime they were doing nothing. But, even more important the program does not pay for any psychological or psychiatric damage caused by watching people jump out of the World Trade Center buildings, or the health damage from the burning fires, or watching the buildings collapse. No compensation for years of dealing with PTSD, an emotional rollercoaster existence, endless nightmares, distorted emotions and experiencing the deterioration of your health. That must change. The countless thousands of residents downtown need to be treated properly and compensated. When I complained to my lawyer about the fact that I could be dead from cancer by the time I see a check he said, “Oh, I have many dead clients waiting for a check.”

Here are he candidates that will most likely help us in SoHo, despite all of the rhetoric and campaigning. I’ve left out those candidates and offices which I can’t support.

D.A. — Alvin Bragg

Borough President — Brad Hoylman

Mayor — Maya Wiley (except for the police defunding)

City Council — Christopher Marte

Stay tuned for more in SoHo and the latest from the corruption in the Hamptons.

Crosswalks in SoHo

The Candidates. Vote!

The times is Now.

SoHo has specific requirements and it’s not always easy to figure out who will do what once they are in office. I can tell you that a lot of politicians on the local level have been an embarrassment. So, if I miss a couple of candidates interpret it any way you like.

Christopher Marte is our choice for City Council. The less said of his predecessor, the better. He is responsive and hopefully will continue to be so.

Its a crowded field for Mayor and only Maya Wiley stands out with intelligence and drive. I know a few of the others — so that’s why Maya is the choice. Defunding police, however, is NOT the route to take. Education, training and real community cooperation between the police and the community has to be a priority. In SoHo, we are served by the 1st Precinct and recently my contacts with them have presented officers who are polite and considerate as well as diverse.

None of the D.A. candidates are familiar. The campaign people were less than cooperative — across the board. While I knew Morgenthau and Vance, the choice is more a sense that we live in a changing world and Alvin Bragg seems to be the most in-tune with the issues of Mass Incarceration, equal justice, and the rising danger on the part of those who would destroy democracy using Reactionary politics. I can tell you personally, a District Attorney who uses his or her incredible power to destroy opponents (as Thomas Spota did in the Hamptons) is a dangerous politician. Alvin Bragg seems to be interested in protecting all of us while maintaining a sense of racial equanimity and prosecutorial sanity.

Brad Hoylman is fhe choice for Manhattan Borough President. He gets things done as he has shown in the State Senate and in a prior post here he outlined his views for changing the Community Board. While these are not his words, the Board needs to become genuinely responsive to the needs of those in the community — not become just a feather in the cap of those who bought their way into their position with political donations and fealty.

All of the candidates need to pay attention — not lip service — to the practical actions that will enable Affordable Housing, lest we become like California. Developers need to step up to the plate and actually support the community needs not simply hire expensive lawyers who are well-connected and then ignore any follow-through once they’ve gotten their building permit.

Housing Court and HPD need to focus on eliminating landlord abuse and harassment of New York City tenants. Tenants need REAL protections. Affordable Housing needs to be a real and concerted effort with deals that have teeth — or consequences if ignored.

The State of SoHo: An open letter to Senator Kavanaugh

“We don’t even ask happiness, just a little less pain”

–Charles Bukowski

May 30, 2021

State Senator Brian Kavanaugh,

As a journalist who lives in SoHo a couple of problems have gone unaddressed.

First, the traffic rules on Avenue of the Americas from Canal Street headed North to Watts street where cars turn into the line-up for the Holland Tunnel is erratically and poorly enforced. Even when there are Traffic Agents directing traffic, there is never an effort to keep the crosswalks clear to protect pedestrians. This is true at Grand Street and Avenue of the Americas and at Watts Street and Avenue of the Americas. With too little enforcement and zero summonses it has become a dangerous free for all. As a result, with no enforcement whatsoever on a holiday weekend — I was hit by a car this past weekend and seriously injured. With no room to use the crosswalk and no enforcement and a green WALK sign, my only witness was the frankfurter cart vendor when I was hit. Funny? Not really. I’m 77 and have a heart condition and cancer. Not funny at all.  And, I often watch mothers with baby carriages trying to weave in and out of cars which could care less if they hit them, lest they miss a light heading to New Jersey.

Do something about enforcement, giving out steep summonses, and keeping crosswalks clear before any more residents are hurt or killed.

Second, do something about the laws regarding abuse and harassment in Housing. Otherwise Affordable Housing will remain a joke for all but greedy developers.

I’ve lived in a rent-stabilized apartment for over 35 years. It is a building operated by people whom I consider to be criminals. My own prosecution for writing the Truth will be accurately judged once former Hamptons D.A. Thomas Spota is sentenced next month. But, I was the subject of a landlord lawsuit — attempting to evict me and my family — as a result of complaining and suing over numerous habitability issues. Due to the excessive cost of paying rent AND paying legal fees — I was forced to remove improvements made with the permission of the prior owner and approved by a corrupt judge by the name of Braun. The well-developed abuse ploy is “litigate-to-evict,” which makes the cost of defending your home impossible to afford. The landlords in my case have honed this method of abuse and eviction and out of 60 originally rent-stabilized apartments only 5 rent-stabilized and at least 10 Loft Law apartments remain. The Loft Law units were commercial apartments whose tenants were subjected to incredible abuse but the tenants eventually forced the courts to designate them as Loft Law units. 

Kathryn Freed and Sean Sweeney, you may recall, originally got that Loft Law passed. Our Loft Law tenants got their approvals accomplished after nearly two decades of abuse, harassment and threats by our landlords. It’s a well-planned criminal operation known by various names since the late 1980’s. Even membership on Community Board #2 did not help. 

I barely have heat all winter, constant leaks and a judgment against me for $250,000 because I fought the attempt to evict me and my family which was brought to the Supreme Court for SEVEN years; a case that cost $500,000! That case alone warrants an investigation by Attorney General James, the Department of Investigation and the District Attorney — as do the details of how Mitch & Murray (as I call the landlord and their enforcers), came to own this building and many others.

From your perspective, penalties for abuse and harassment should rise to a minimum of $50,000 per incident PLUS prison time — and tenants should not be obligated to pay rent at all while paying an attorney to defend them. The current laws regarding abuse and harassment are absurdly easy to circumvent for landlords.

As I am writing this, I have no heat in 48 degree weather and apparently no one is managing the building. There is no superintendent. The building’s voicemail is full. Clearly, it is retaliation for utilizing the benefits of the pandemic rent moratorium. HPD is not open on weekends and agents do not arrive for days anyway. When a heat problem is reported they call the landlord before arriving so that the landlord can temporarily fix the problem — until the inspector leaves. And, due to the incompetence of HPD, for example, 311 does not respond to our heat complaints since we are a Rent-Stabilized tenant in this building. Ironically, Stabilized apartment tenants are erroneously designated now as Loft Law tenants by HPD through 311 — while the Loft Board does not recognize Rent-Stabilized tenants as being within their purview. Ergo, no one responds to us. I can’t call 311 to lodge a lack of heat complaint.

Reports from other constituents that your office is unresponsive may be unfounded: please demonstrate to me and my readers that you are our concerned State Senator.


D. Clark MacPherson

The Candidates: Senator Brad Hoylman for Borough President

Brad Hoylman and his family

Of what appears to be six current candidates for the Borough President primary for Manhattan only one stands out. I’ve known Brad Hoylman personally for nearly twenty years. He’s a difficult opponent, as I found out in my Community Board days, and he knows the ropes. He’s shown us that in Albany. Few politicians Do as well as Talk about what they intend to accomplish. We should be impressed with the fact that before, during, and after the Shelly Silver imbroglio he managed to support rent-stabilized tenants and assist in putting teeth in the most recent attempt at holding landlords accountable for abuse and harassment. While Christine Quinn pushed that particular envelope, the ugly events of Bloomberg’s third term City Council ploy and her surreptitious approval of Trump SoHo overshadowed that meager attempt. Perhaps, we’ll cross that bridge again soon and put a few landlords in jail instead of tenants and journalists. But, don’t get me started. My own tenancy has been decades from Hell and no amount of arm-twisting got me anywhere. Except a judgment of $250,000 for losing a case in Supreme Court, Talk about tenant abuse! Try that on for size, folks! A legal bill for $500,000 just to stay in your apartment — while also being required to pay rent?

So, knowing that Brad is an openly gay politician with a great family and a husband in the film business (he was the director of the film about Valerie Plame) I decided to just ask him a couple of questions. Since he has a brilliant education I’ve always avoided picking fight with him. But, I must say — among all of the politicians in Manhattan — he was the only one who responded to one of my letters as I was rotting in prison for writing about the Truth in my articles and blogs. (Hamptons D.A. Thomas Spota will be sentenced next month). He has a phenomenal education and intellect which includeed being an Oxford scholar, if I’m not mistaken.

I already knew he did a great job on the Community Board and outshone most of the people in Albany that were supposed to be fighting for us. He was, and is, sharp and is a politician worth keeping an eye on. So, I asked him about his focus for the BP office and his plans for the Community Boards. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Borough President’s role, that individual oversees all of Boards in his or her borough. 

Hoylman on the BP: “I see the Borough President as the planner-in-chief, and my focus will be to create a community-led planning effort. The City can’t delay on studying and implementing a comprehensive city-wide plan. This administration has sent communities half-baked rezonings that create division. We need a city-wide, equitable and community-led planning process within the first 100 days of a new administration. All development should be guided by community plans, instead of by developers. I plan to implement a Manhattan Marshall Plan, instituting community-led plans (197a) with every single community board within the first year of my office. We need to build more affordable and supporting housing to tackle our affordability and homelessness crisis, and we need to do it in a way that doesn’t displace communities and small businesses in order to line the pockets of developers.”  

Hoylman on the Community Boards: “We need to further reform community boards to make them more diverse, more accessible, and fair. First, we need to remove elected official staff and lobbyists for community boards. Second, we need to ensure community board meetings are accessible to people with disabilities. And third, we should invest in training for our community board members, on conflict of interest avoidance, land use, etc. as well as diversity and inclusion and leadership, to get them up to speed quickly and ensure they’re equipped to tackle challenges facing their communities. And I think it’s more important than ever that our neighborhoods have a say in their needs. The Borough President has a huge capital budget, and I’m proposing what I call Community Board Budgeting. I want to divest the Borough President’s broad discretion over capital dollars by delegating substantial authority for capital funding to local community boards.”

Stay Tuned. And Vote in the upcoming Primary

The Candidates: Alvin Bragg

For those of you interested in the candidates for District Attorney:

 SATURDAY: Elected and Community Leaders to Rally for Alvin Bragg with One Month until Primary Day

Marking exactly one month before Primary Day, Alvin Bragg to receive endorsements from elected and community leaders and rally supporters to spread his message. He will hold rallies on the Upper West Side and in Harlem.

UPPER WEST SIDE:Congressman Jerry Nadler Corruption fighter Zephyr Teachout and others: Verdi Square 72nd & Broadway Saturday, May 22nd, 10:30 AM 
HARLEM:Former Congressman Charlie Rangel Former Governor David Paterson State Senator Robert Jackson and many more: Harlem State Office Building163 West 125th Street Saturday, May 22, 1:00 PM 

The Candidates: Christopher Marte

In the final series of candidate articles leading up to the Primary and early voting, here’s a letter from a SoHo resident describing her experiences with Chris, who is running for City Council. It’s a crowded field so pay attention to who is out there. Here’s a letter describing her experiences. Take a look and make up your own mind.

“Why Chris Marte is the best candidate for NY City Council District 1 Chris has long been a vested member of the downtown community.

He has deep connections with residents and businesses in each of the very diverse neighborhoods that make up District 1. Long before he sought elected office, he was involved in and fought for causes that he and the neighborhood were passionate about.

He understands the diverse community he would be representing having grown up in the LES with immigrant parents, studied in China, so he can bridge the communication gap that some Chinatown residents face. He has shown up, taken meetings with and listened to anyone who has asked for his support and assistance, truly developing a deep understanding of the challenges faced by all. He has worked in finance, so understands the economic landscape of our city.

His parents and sibling have started and own small businesses in NYC, so he is familiar with the challenges they face, but also understands their intrinsic contributions small businesses make to their neighborhoods and the city.
Chris has not relied on campaign contributions from any large special interest groups, but instead has hit all of his campaign finance goals.

  • He’s helped local, small businesses apply for PPP loans, and navigate the rent forgiveness policies during COVID shutdown.
  • Joined SoHo residents in the fight against big box retail in SoHo, successfully maintaining restrictions that protect the future sustainability of the neighborhood.
  • Stands with residents and small businesses in SoHo, NoHo, Chinatown and Little Italy against the current administrations deeply flawed, destabilizing up-zoning of SoHo/Noho, which falsely claims to provide more affordable housing, but does not guarantee a single unit of affordable housing, while undermining the landmark protections of the only cast iron building district in the world. Chris recognizes that the city’s plan jeopardizes the existing businesses and residents of the neighborhood and its success as an art and design destination from around the world. Like many in the community, he knows that the de Blasio’s upzoning plan will create frenzied real estate speculation that will pressure current occupants of the district to leave, while enriching a handful of self-dealing, influential, wealthy property owners who have contributed heavily to the campaigns of the current administration.
  • Chris instead supports the community developed Alternative Plan, which protects the hundreds of existing residents, including rent stabilized and regulated tenants of the, seniors aging in place, while adding entirely affordable housing. It also provides a path to legalized residential and retail occupancy currently not allowed in many SoHo/NoHo buildings.
  • He held multiple town halls to better understand and inform residents regarding the proposed up-zoning. Spoke forcefully at a recent press rally on behalf of Chinatown residents and small businesses afraid being displaced due to the City’s plan.
  • Chris has been a fierce advocate for vulnerable tenants. He helped low-income Bowery tenants organize, be heard and get back into their homes, after being evicted without notice, leaving all their belongings behind during sub-freezing
  • He has been a supporter along with the community for the preservation of the Elizabeth Street Garden since its future was first jeopardized. He supports the alternative location for development of entirely affordable housing, versus the
    currently proposed housing that would provide 3 times more luxury housing than affordable housing.
  • What Chris promises to do once he is in office:
    • Implement the Community Alternative Plan for SoHo/NoHo
    • Preserve the Elizabeth Street Garden
    • Enact a comprehensive sanitation plan that he has developed to reduce waste and expand street cleanings.
    • Advocates for composting via retrofit of current trash bins on sidewalks.
    • Holds entities large and small to their community promises.
  • I give my strongest endorsement to Chris Marte as candidate for City Council.
  • Michele Varian
    resident 496 Broadway
    SoHo small business owner (recently relocated to Brooklyn)
    retailer, manufacturer, designer, tech start-up founder
    (As a 30 year resident, I started and grew my widely respected (business delegations from Germany, Brazil, Japan, Beverly Hills and elsewhere have visited my shop annually for multiple years running) business of 20+ years in SoHo. I have employed many dozens over the years and have showcased and sold the work of many hundreds of local design and manufacturing businesses over the years, in addition to product lines that I have designed and manufactured locally.
    My husband is a certified artist, and he and I live in a rent-stabilized, JLWQA loft for 20+ years, which has allowed us to build and sustain our businesses here in the city.
    Many other residents and business owners, especially creative, have been forced to leave the neighborhood and even the city due to ever increasing rent and overhead expenses.
    I hope that with the responsible stewardship of City Council Member Chris Marte, the current and future NYC will be able to attract and support a diverse and inclusive pool or ambitious dreamers and that others, like myself, will find the opportunities that I did and not be forced to leave.)”

SoHo Alive

“Life must be lived as play.”


It’s been a while, has it not? While there are doubts about the wisdom of opening up, in light of the continuing disasters in India, Pakistan and Brazil, that seems not to be on the mind of SoHo diners. To the delight of restauranteurs and store owners, on West Broadway at least, the sidewalks and interiors of many establishments were crowded this weekend. Even a few vendors were out.

The World Trade Center Disaster

“We don’t even ask happiness, just a little less pain.”
-Henry Bukowski

Those of us who heard the first plane fly over our apartment building remember the ensuing terror. I thought it was a military jet because it flew so low that it would explain the roar of the jet engines. Suspiciously, I turned on the T.V. and watched the first burning tower as the second plane came in from across the Hudson River from New Jersey — and watched the second tower being hit. After the procession of emergency vehicles began down 7th avenue, life settled into a dull routine of fear. That was the lull before we watched the two towers collapse. I and my family were petrified and joined a neighbor who resolved his fears by immediately starting to drink. It’s been twenty years since we inhaled the smoke from those burning fires that lasted almost 6 months.

The promise of some sort of compensation perked us up. My oldest son suffered from recurrent nightmares and seizures. My wife had thyroid problems and asthma. My daughter developed a strange confluence of maladies that caused her to pass out. I developed cancer. And, we all had gastroenterological problems. We all suffered from PTSD. You can’t watch people jumping from the 90th floor of a building and not come away with something.

We registered with the WTC for medical treatment. We hired an attorney to handle the matter and registered. We were unable to file a claim with the VCF (Victims Compensation Fund) until 2018 for some arcane reason. It seemed like a long time before we could get assistance. Since our landlord never cleaned the defective venting system in our apartment, we learned that we had been exposed to the toxic dust for years beyond the actual disaster. But, finally our claim was in. After asking about how long this would take — since it didn’t feel like we were pushing to expect some sort of payment 17 years after being exposed — we were told 12-18 months. We’d waited this long, so WTF. Obviously, having been convicted for my writing, they weren’t sending checks to prisoners. And, my family had its hands full with the landlord trying to evict them while I was making license plates.

Meanwhile, they claimed that the VCF and WTC Health program was running out of money. What? I was aware that all of the businesses that claimed they’d been destroyed by the Terror attack — and, had been investigated and prosecuted for accepting money. I mean, after all, that’s what government does, right? And, all of the downtown politicians had appeared numerous times with construction hats on and cameras rolling to show how they cared. Lots of uniforms, speeches, solemn moods and faces. Everyone, including Madelaine Wils, Julie Menin, Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg, Bernard Kerik and assorted politicians from New York and Washington. Everyone got on board. So what was the problem?

Finally, it took a comedian — Jon Stewart — to get things moving. In 2019 Stewart started to make waves about people waiting to get paid while the staff, the politicians, even the people answering the phone, were. But, they were running out of money for the health treatment and for the award checks. The publicity worked. Even a Republican controlled economy with a President who now hated New York and wanted to retaliate for not loving him and his sexual prowess banter — allowed a bill with $10 Billion dollars in new money to guarantee that it would fulfill its mission. Even Moscow Mitch went along. Unfortunately, the true mission was not underscored.

That mission was to keep the salary checks flowing for the WTC Health program and the VCF bureaucracy.

My wife’s asthma medication would be called in to our pharmacy but the WTC wouldn’t pay for it even though they’d prescribed it. No part of her thyroid operation was covered. It took nearly a year for my GERD medication to be paid for. And, that’s not to mention the bills we have received for treatment. Bills for treatment supposedly covered — is this double dipping?

But even more important, even with cancer, there was no award check.

Now, I don’t know Jon Stewart. And, I don’t think he gives a shit that I cannot now find a job due to my illness or due to the mind-fucking that I’ve received — along with the concomitant fraudulent felonies heaped upon me due to my writing about the criminal enterprise and pay-to-play operation that was being operated by Thomas Spota — the former D.A. in the Hamptons. Check Newsday from today and that story gets really interesting and has expanded to include Steve Levy, the Suffolk County Executive who was about to challenge Cuomo as Governor. But it’s not nearly the whole story. It doesn’t mention all of the corrupt judges, lawyers and A.D.A.s working out of Spota’s office before he was convicted.

In all fairness, Stewart was doing a P.R. play in order to get firemen, cops, EMT workers and others paid before they died from the toxic exposure. And that is as it should have happened. But, once again, who gives a damn about a journalist who wrote about the disaster, visited the burning site and published a magazine that underscored the devastation in SoHo from 9-11 and gave out free publicity and ads to help them? No other publication did that. Only The SoHo Journal. I mean, we can’t all be as lucky as Jamal Khashoggi or Anna Politovskaya and get it over with quickly. Some of us, who’ve tried to warn everyone about what was going on, have been forced to linger!

Only Senator Schumer’s office has helped. Only an assistant named Selena Cardona in that office has helped. No other politician has raised a finger or given a shit. We’ve received no help, no payment, no outreach, even though they got their $10 Billion dollar shot in the arm.

So, thanks, Jon. The employees of this indifferent bureaucracy are being guaranteed their salary checks until 2090. But, as the clerk has repeatedly told me on the phone in Washington at the VCF, twenty years later, “it’s under review.” When I complained to my lawyer about the fact that I might be dead by the time I received any payment, he said, “I have a lot of dead clients.”

Affordable Housing – Part Deux

“I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.”

— Hunter Thompson

In few cities across the country would tenants put up with the abuse that thus far has contributed to the quality of life in Manhattan. The dearth of decent quality housing at affordable price has been the long-suffering experience of those who have chosen to live in Manhattan. In fact, Affordable Housing has been the mantra of many politicians wishing to gain favor with liberals and the rapidly disappearing middle-class. And, up to the present moment, since the pandemic has softened the big-stick policy of some landlords because rents are dropping, that situation has temporarily ameliorated. But, don’t be fooled. Landlords like Simon Legree, who said of his tenant, “Give him the worst floggin’ he ever had,” are still trying to evict us AND get paid at the same time.

Unfortunately, for corporate rent-gougers the courts are still closed and there’s a moratorium. But the $750/hr. lawyers and judges who pander to the tried-an-true “Litigate to Evict” game will be back, rest assured. In fact, in its heyday when Luxury Decontrol was a thing — there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with a Holdover Action. Not separating your garbage could be the basis for landlords to drag you into court. Not Housing Court, mind you — real court, Supreme Court — where motion practice at $750/hr. could bankrupt any tenant in short order. Several years of litigation while being required to pay rent AND a lawyer was impossible for most tenants. Buy-outs, the legal extortion racket used by such landlords and their attorneys, on the cheap, were common. In my building, 75% of the original rent-stabilized tenants were removed using this legal ploy. And, not only the courts, but HPD, that City agency which Shaun Donovan oversaw, whose responsibility it is to investigate complaints and support Rent-Stabilized tenants, seemed to be working for deep-pocketed landlords. Certainly not the tenants. While things have abated since Luxury Decontrol was eliminated, thanks to lawmakers like Brad Hoylman, threats remain. Abuse and harassment is rife and try fighting a corrupt landlord who regularly withholds heat with an HPD that seems like it’s on the take.

In my case, having barely managed to withstand 7 years of litigation while I was in prison for my articles exposing corruption in SoHo and in Southampton (D.A. Thomas Spota currently awaits sentencing for operating a criminal enterprise) — the landlord continued the onslaught to evict my family. The landlord even worked with the convicted D.A. to help. In fact, the landlord went to the extreme and filed a complaint against its own building, followed by litigation due to our “illegal” loft construction (approved by the former building owner) which historically put SoHo on the map and enriched developers as well as some artists. The little ploy to evict me and my family cost $500,000, a case which one supposedly liberal jurist, Judge Braun, oversaw in Supreme Court. We weren’t evicted but I had to pay the landlord’s legal fees for the privilege of remaining in our apartment. For what? Why? Were judges so eager to reward corrupt landlords and their brethren in the courts? And, what about Affordable Housing and the “Litigate to Evict” game?

Eviction ploys come in several forms — the most effective being Holdover Actions. Request for help from HPD and the politicians in our case fell on deaf ears. Margaret Chin wouldn’t even make an appearance because “we don’t appear on behalf of tenants.” I suspect that is patently false. Just as I suspect will be the case if we fall for the Affordable Housing ploy used to get people elected — and to support the new SoHo/NoHo rezoning. Trust me, once the deals are done, and the developers and supplicants, those faceless multi-millionaires and billionaires who collect their vig while tenants try getting heat, they’ll all have scurried back to their $10-20 million dollar lofts. Don’t believe the bullshit. They could care less about New Yorkers, SoHo, NoHo, downtown residents, or even people desperately needing affordable housing. If they had, my story could never have happened. The Community Board and my “friends” who knew about the unfolding and decades long travesty looked the other way. One Chair of the Board knew about our plight but cashed in selling his townhouse to developers for $17 million — and snickered at our lowly “problem.” Affordable Housing wasn’t on his radar, nor anyone else’s on the Board.

111 Varick is a perfect example of Affordable Houseing. No one even knew how to access the supposedly “affordable” units. Or, that they even existed. Community Board 2 approved the 111 Varick Street project but then dropped getting that information out to constituents completely. The website, operated by HPD, for finding Affordable Housing units is practically an unknown to any politician or Board member — including those members on the zoning committee which approves developments.

So, here’s a little outtake, sort of like an SNL sketch describing HPD and their “Community Preservation” efforts to give you an example of what really happens when you have a problem. In my building where two floors of the ten floors is/was rent-stabilized for nearly 40 years — and was updated for the two bottom floors which previously had been commercially zoned — are now Loft Board units. The eight floors above those Loft Law units remain rent-stabilized but can no longer make heat complaints, since 311 will not take the complaint. After evicting or extorting stabilized tenants out and then re-renting the decontrolled apartments to market rate tenants, the commercial unit tenants got tired of being threatened, abused, extorted and harassed for decades because they weren’t supposed to “live” in those units — and finally got the City to cover them under the Loft Law. Those tenants had been exposed to abuse and spurred on by the landlord to in-turn physically threaten other tenants in the building — who had been told there was a conspiracy among the rent-stabilized tenants to force them out. The D.A. wasn’t interested in prosecuting the landlord due to lack of proof. Who would make a complaint and then be evicted? It became like living in an apartment operated by the Stasi.

Here’s what it was like recently in reporting no heat to HPD:

“Deputy Commissioner Santiago — Assistant Renee Peay — Inspector Mulligan — Hillary Post — Natasha — HPD Division of Enforcement

Here is an example of my making complaints.

The contact number you have given me for heat complaints landed on the desk of one Natasha.

The last couple of times a Mr. Mulligan handled the complaints and sent someone to check out my apartment. Once the complaint is made with HPD an inspector is sent and the heat miraculously comes on because the building owner is alerted and they then act. It is a cumbersome way to get heat but what can you expect for rents of $5,000 to $7,000 per month?

However, this last time, here is what happened: Natasha took my complaint of no heat, telling me that she normally does not do this, but as a favor she told me that a lack of heat complaint was filed and gave me the following number — on 4/15/21 #xxxx0198.
The next day the super arrived, yelling at me that I had reported to HPD that my radiators had been removed in my apartment. I told him that I never reported such a thing. He never responded to my next question about why, in 50 degree temperature had the heat been off for the entire building. It was a well-worn conversation.

I called Natasha at HPD again and asked her why she reported that I’d told her that the radiators were removed. She replied that since my building was unable to call 311 and report heat complaints due to the false characterization of my building as a Loft Law building — instead of the Rent Stabilized building that it has been for 35 years — there was no place in her reporting system to indicate that I had no heat. Her office didn’t take heat complaints — this was only an accommodation. The only box she could check in order to get an inspector out to the apartment was to report that my radiators had been removed. I said, if I’d reported that I had no water would she report that I’d removed the toilet and bathtub?

A Mr. Mulligan then called me and I explained that I’d only reported a lack of heat and that the landlord, who, for 35 years had used the “Blame the Victim” technique would now use this report of removing the radiators to show that I was now vandalizing the apartment. After all, when I’d had pipe breaks in the past, the landlord had widely spread the rumor (especially to our downstairs neighbor who’s furniture was ruined) that I’d poured water on the floor and when I reported a bedbug infestation coming from those Loft Law tenants who’d been abused for years and lived in fear of eviction, I was told that my kids were just “dirty.” Our previous court experience had taken 7 years and cost $500,000 and due to the judge’s desire to be appointed to the Federal bench, allowed the landlord to force my wife to remove our loft improvements (which the previous owner permitted) even though half of SoHo was built upon that precedent. And, they were awarded a judgment for THEIR legal fees in trying to fuck me. My teenage daughter was now evicted and had no room after deconstructing the loft — while I remained in prison!

Mulligan said not to worry about it. That I should just explain the situation to the inspector who arrives and he would dutifully report the situation. So, the inspector arrived the next day and, of course, the landlord, having been first called by HPD to warn them, there was heat. So, when the inspector arrived he was told that the heat was now on and we didn’t need him.

The violation report from HPD that he turned in stated that I had refused to allow the inspector into the apartment. In order to obtain heat, even though I had followed the procedure your office provided since I can no longer call 311 — because we are covered by the Loft Law, which, in fact, we are not — and thusly our violation report shows this:

“An inspection was attempted on 4/16/21 in response to your complaint. The complaint has been canceled for the following reason:
Plumbing – Radiator – MIssing/Removed – Tenant Refused Access. If the condition still exists please file a new complaint with 311.”

Now, in addition to having it on record that I must have removed the radiators; that I wouldn’t let the inspector in to inspect the damage of an obviously psychopathic tenant who abuses the landlord — we have no heat because it’s 70 degrees outside. And, that I should call 311.

I wonder how that’ll play in court when we get there again and try to explain why I removed all of my radiators in a rage against my kindly landlord?

This is a warning about Affordable Housing and how this charade actually plays out. Don’t buy it. Thus far, it is a poorly conceived hoax.

Note: A forthcoming book about SoHo, the landlord in this article and the Hamptons is currently in preparation.

Stay Tuned

The Candidates: Manhattan D.A.

In continuing the series of focal points about the candidates, here is one of the primary issues coming from the Weinstein campaign — white-collar and cyber crime. Here’s her viewpoint on what she plans to do about it.

Tali Farhadian Weinstein for Manhattan District Attorney
The late Robert Morgenthau was fond of saying the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office prosecuted from “the streets to the suites.” This was more than a turn of phrase — it represented a philosophy that put everyone from con artists and embezzlers, to tax cheats and corporations, on notice and held everyone, including the powerful, accountable.

Mr. Morgenthau’s words have never been more important than right now. As Manhattan struggles to recover under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, white-collar and cybercriminals stole nearly $416 million from more than 35,000 of Manhattan’s most vulnerable residents in 2020 alone, representing lost jobs, retiree pension funds, fair wages, and tax revenue we need for the city’s recovery.

I have plans to put white-collar and cyber criminals on notice. As Manhattan DA, I’ll use my experiences as a prosecutor and a manager to hold perpetrators of economic crimes accountable — no matter who they are, what power they yield, their wealth or social status, or what offices they occupy.

Read my comprehensive plan to protect Manhattanites from the rapidly evolving public threat of cyber and white-collar crime.  When white-collar criminals are left unchecked, it’s our most vulnerable who suffer — immigrants, non-citizens, the elderly, workers trying to make a living. That’s why I’m determined to use my experience as a federal prosecutor in the Public Integrity Section, where I ran complex investigations and prosecutions ranging from tax evasion and bribery to economic sanctions violations — and in Brooklyn, where I helped restructure the office to maximize accountability and deterrence — to reinvigorate the Manhattan DA’s storied commitment to fighting economic crime alongside violent crime.

Learn more about my plans to take immediate and sustained action to protect Manhattanites from economic crime here.