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Westminster Cares? Tenants of Trump Son-in-Law Jared Kushner Say Not So Much

One of Jared Kushner's buildings, 118 East 4th Street, where tenants have taken legal action against their landlord (Photo courtesy of Streeteasy)

One of Jared Kushner’s buildings, 118 East 4th Street, where tenants have taken legal action against their landlord (Photo courtesy of Streeteasy)

After months of pleading with Westminster City Living to restore cooking gas and address a litany of repairs in her aging East Village tenement building, Jennifer Hengen and other members of the 118 East 4th Street tenant association had reached their breaking point. “It was like waiting for Godot,” she recalled.

Not only had the building’s real-estate management company, headed by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, neglected to fix problems in her building, and many more across the neighborhood, but tenants felt as if the problems didn’t really matter to management. “We’re invisible to them because we’re not millionaires,” she said. “I just don’t think we’re taken very seriously– number one, because we’re not in one of the big, shiny buildings and, number two, because we are rent-stabilized.”

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Notorious East Village Landlord Uses Street Art to Paint a Prettier Picture

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

Earlier this year, when the East Village’s beloved Stage Restaurant closed in the wake of a dispute with its landlord Icon Realty Management, Brooklyn-based artist Gilf! plastered the diner’s former home with caution tape reading “Gentrification in Progress.” It wasn’t the first time one of the company’s properties was the site of artistic protest: Karen Platt, a resident of an Icon-owned building on East 5th Street, has been known to chalk up the sidewalk with messages like “Enough Is Enough,” and over July 4th weekend, someone spray-painted a message on the sidewalk in front of the now for-rent Stage space that advised, “DO NOT RENT HERE. DO NOT BUY HERE. BOYCOTT IN EFFECT.”

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Jared Kushner’s Real Estate Company Settles With Disgruntled Tenants

118 East 4th Street (Photo: Courtesy of Streeteasy)

118 East 4th Street (Photo: Courtesy of Streeteasy)

There’s been a new development in the battle between East Village tenants and their landlord, Jared Kushner (aka Donald Trump’s son-in-law). Residents of 118 East 4th Street weren’t too pleased last time we checked in with them. After months without cooking gas and terrible garbage buildups, tenants took Kushner and his company, Westminster City Living, to housing court. Now, however, we’re told they’ve reached a settlement.

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Faith Leaders and Tenants Try to Meet Steve Croman, Don’t Have a Prayer

George Tzannes, a Croman tenant from the East Village (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

George Tzannes, a Croman tenant from the East Village (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

On a miserably rainy Thursday, just after lunchtime, about 10 people had gathered in front of a nondescript building on Broadway and the corner of Bleecker Street, holding signs with slogans such as “Stop Tenant Harassment” and “Stop Croman” while patiently waiting for permission to finally be allowed to enter the building and go up to the seventh floor, where they hoped to meet with Steven Croman, or at least with Oren Goldstein, the chief operating officer of Croman’s real estate company 9300 Realty. They had some important letters they needed to deliver, and it was best to do it in person.

The crowd consisted of members of the Cooper Square Committee, a tenant advocacy organization, members of the Movement for Justice in El Barrio, an East Harlem nonprofit, current Croman tenants, and a couple of representatives from different religious organizations, including Marc Greenberg, the executive director of the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing. They had gathered in order to personally deliver letters from 32 different religious figures across the five boroughs to Croman, and express their grievances over his alleged ongoing tenant harassment.

Lannie Lorence, one of the tenants protesting Croman and his real estate company, tried to shield a big cardboard sign with the story of an elderly Croman tenant on one side and a satirical image of Croman on the other from the rain while he explained his complaints.

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

“I’m rent-stabilized, and [Croman’s company] has been harassing me to get out,” Lorence, who lives in a Croman-owned building on 23rd Street, said. “They brought this frivolous lawsuit against me saying that I haven’t been paying rent,” a claim he asserted was not true at all. “They’ve been very abusive in taking people to court,” he said, adding that threatened lawsuits were allegedly a common follow-up after previous attempts at removing tenants from rent-controlled and rent-stabilized buildings through low buy-outs, heat and gas cuts, and constant, seemingly pointless construction. “[Croman] will try anything he can to scare you.”

Bernarda Flores, a member of El Barrio and a tenant of a Croman-owned building on 108th Street, recounted a similar story. “We were called to court and told that we owed rent,” she said, explaining that a court-appointed lawyer eventually looked over Flores’ paperwork and determined that she, in fact, did not owe rent. Now Flores was seeking legal action in the New York Housing Court against Croman’s initial summons.

Croman is surely no stranger to this kind of publicity: in 2014, the New York State Attorney General launched an investigation against him regarding charges of using illegal methods to remove rent-stabilized tenants from his properties, and he has made The Village Voice‘s list of New York City’s worst landlords twice (once in 1998 and then again in 2014). There’s a Croman Tenants’ Alliance, which gives legal and practical tips to Croman tenants, as well as a Stop Croman Coalition.

Marc Greenberg reading from some of the letters (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Marc Greenberg reading from some of the letters (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Yonatan Tadele, the housing organizer at Cooper Square Committee, which had helped co-organize today’s event, hoped that the letters would lead to “tangible improvement.” He added that “this action has been in the works for a few months now,” and that Juan Haro, the director of El Barrio, came up with the idea of asking various religious leaders to submit letters in order to achieve a response from Croman.

The letters included statements by Catholic priests, rabbis, Buddhist leaders, and a variety of ministers from Pentecostal, Methodist, Unitarian, and other denominations. The original plan was to have Greenberg and some of the tenants read some of the letters to Croman or his COO before handing him the entire package, but the building’s security wasn’t having any of it, and the plan was readjusted, with the readings being conducted in the lobby, in front of a very exasperated security guard.

Rev. Valerie Holly (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Rev. Valerie Holly (Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

Two letters in, however, the building’s manager decided to put an end to it and ordered everyone out with threats that the police were waiting outside, ready to arrest the trespassers that we were. As everyone quietly shuffled back outside, Greenberg suggested they could send Croman the letters through a delivery service instead.

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

(Photo: Luisa Rollenhagen)

While five or six of New York’s finest were indeed assembled outside of the building, Haro, Greenberg, and others remained undeterred, and Rev. Valerie Holly from the Judson Memorial Church led a prayer for both Croman and his tenants. After a couple more speeches by other tenants, the congregation finally broke up, a bit deflated but undefeated, with promises to keep the pressure on, and to not lose hope. Before the group broke up, Greenberg mused aloud whether the letters could somehow be served to Croman, like divorce papers.

When we reached out for comment, Croman or another spokesperson from 9300 Realty were not available.

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Tenants Marched to City Hall to Boost Bills Aimed at Fighting Harassment

Tenants rally in Chinatown to protest construction harassment with Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (Photo by Nicole Disser)

Tenants rally in Chinatown to protest construction harassment with Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (Photo by Nicole Disser)

Tenants and activists who are part of the Stand for Tenant Safety Coalition (STS) rallied outside of 90 Elizabeth Street this morning before marching to City Hall to show their support for a package of bills that would address construction-related harassment. Today marks an important landmark for the coalition’s fight against landlords who are taking advantage of a lack of oversight and toothless fines.

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Anti-Construction Harassment Coalition Rallies at City Hall For Tenant Safety

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

A group by the name of Stand for Tenant Safety, consisting of tenant groups and eleven City Council Members (including Rosie Mendez from the Lower East Side, Stephen Levin from Williamsburg, and Antonio Reynoso of Bushwick) rallied on the steps of City Hall this morning. Never mind the rain. The coalition is named for a new report, released today by the Urban Justice Center, that coincides with the introduction of a legislation package that would protect tenants from landlords and developers who carry out neglectful and malicious construction projects. “My tenants have rain coming down in their apartments, so this is nothing,” said CM Rosie Mendez of the Lower East Side.

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‘Cooper Square Is Here to Stay,’ But First They Had to Go On the Warpath

All week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

Cooper Square Protest Banner during the 1960s. Courtesy Cooper Square Committee.

Cooper Square Protest Banner during the 1960s. Courtesy Cooper Square Committee.

The buildings themselves never had many allies. Repeatedly condemned to death, 13 East Third Street, like its 20-odd siblings, stands in spite of itself, renovated rather than replaced. “I’m not a fan of them,” Val Orselli says as we peer out at an antique tenement from a window in his office.
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From ‘The Witch’ to La MaMa: How Radical Art Tumbled into the East Village

UntitledAll week, we’re bringing you a series of deep dives into the surprising histories of storied addresses. Back to our usual after the New Year.

The raucous audience inside Turn Hall grew increasingly impatient for the curtain’s rise. Police had just arrived at 66-68 East 4th Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue, to subdue the swelling mob at the door, those unfortunate souls without a ticket to see America’s first Yiddish play.

The spectators had paid a whopping five dollars for seats normally valued at 50 cents in 1882. Such was the excitement surrounding the sold-out performance of Koldunye, or The Witch. A production conceived of by the 13-year-old sweatshop worker named Boris Thomashefsky, the play brought professional Yiddish theater stateside, says historian Nahma Sandrow. But the real-life drama that night trumped the work of playwright Abraham Goldfaden: the leading lady had disappeared.
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