NY1: Tenant Harassment in a "Deluxe Apartment In The Sky"?

By Michael Herzenberg
May 9, 2019

George Sotiroff has a new kitchen and bathroom, but he didn’t want them.

"If somebody forces you to buy something you don’t want you call that extortion," he said.

His landlord completed what are called Major Capital Improvements and is passing along some of the cost to tenants.

He says the monthly rent on his regulated two bedroom on Walton Avenue in the Bronx is going from $1,000 to $1,300.

City Council Passes Bill to Close 'Kushner Loophole' "The whole idea is to displace us so that they can quadruple the rents," Sotiroff said.

Anita Grasso lives has a similar concern, but lives in a different neighborhood. Her building at 85th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan was featured in the old sitcom "The Jeffersons".

She's a rent stabilized tenant, too.

"They would like us to vacate they would like us to vacate. They would like to make our lives difficult," Grasso said.

Grasso says her landlord shut her out of her balcony for facade repairs. But the work didn't begin for six months and it's still not done another year later.

"This is purposeful without question," she added.

"We see throughout the city our clients being oppressed, harassed, pushed out, struggling to pay their rents in all sorts of types of housing," said Ellen Davidson of the Legal Aid Society.

Davidson says if the landlord of a regulated apartment can boost the rent to about $2,700 the rent can become market rate once the unit becomes vacant - an incentive for landlords to make capital improvements that aren't necessary.

Grasso says she's sure her $2,200 a month rent will rise but she’s not leaving.

"I live off my Social Security and my savings. So it would just mean my savings would run out before I die," she said.

Sotiroff is also retired from a job helping people move into affordable housing - something he hopes he doesn’t have to do for himself again.

"I would have to scramble and look for someplace to go and I really don’t want to live somewhere else," he said.

Grasso’s landlord did not respond to NY1.

Sotiroff’s did saying the building is 80 to 90 years old, the bathrooms were a wreck, none of the apartments are even close to that threshold for deregulation and this is about providing decent, affordable housing.