Housing + Development

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LES Landlord Sami Mahfar Settles Tenant Harassment Case

The State Attorney General has reached a settlement with Sassan “Sami” Mahfar, the embattled landlord accused of illegally harassing tenants of his Lower East Side buildings in an effort to displace them. As part of the $225,000 settlement, companies owned by Sassan “Sami” Mahfar and Sina Mahfar will pay $175,000 to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development and its efforts to combat lead poisoning.

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Greenpoint’s Astral Apartments, a Tumultuous Refuge for the Working Class

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Astral’s Franklin Street exterior

The Astral in Greenpoint has status in the National Register of Historic Places and as a New York City landmark, but not for the murder and mayhem that has emanated from 184 Franklin Avenue since its completion as housing for Charles Pratt’s employees link 131 years ago, in 1886.

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3 Ways to Lend a Small but Helping Hand to those Impacted by Oakland Fire

Fire that killed dozens of people trapped inside the Ghost Ship, a DIY art space in Oakland December 3 2016 (Photo: Julianna Brown, via Wikipedia Commons, Flickr)

Fire that killed dozens of people trapped inside the Ghost Ship, a DIY art space in Oakland December 3 2016 (Photo: Julianna Brown, via Wikipedia Commons, Flickr)

Whenever someone compares Brooklyn to Oakland, an angel loses its wings, and is sent plunging straight down to hell where the sexless being is reborn as an enormous phallus– imagine, like, a hedge fund manager or,  in some cases, a real-estate developer.

That’s because the observation usually has to do with the proximity of a relatively much more prosperous place like Manhattan or San Fransisco (actually those are mostly just super fancy places no matter how you slice it) and based on dumb facts like that you can take a train between the two (the BART, the MTA respectively). Oh, and there’s also that whole gentrification thing– like parts of Brooklyn, Oakland has been declared fabulously “up-and-coming” (barf).

The truth is that, aside from stupid comparisons like these–usually found in real-estate ads, or grunted between high-five’ing bros–Oakland and our beloved borough actually do have some real stuff in common.

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Once a Home for Destitute Girls, Now Handsome Co-Ops Worth Millions

This week and next, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

307 East 12th Street from across the street. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

307 East 12th Street from across the street. (Photo: Katie Schlechter)

The commotion began as Gertrude Williams strolled home from her cashier job at an uptown restaurant. At Broadway and 39th, a strange man tried to strike up a conversation. Annoyed yet accustomed to such unwanted attentions, she ignored him. But he persisted. The New York Tribune described what happened next: “Raising her pugnacious right, she caught him square on the jaw.”

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How One Fraudulent Banking Temple in Brooklyn Found Faith in Orthodoxy

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

The Williamsburg Trust Company building, 2016. (Photo: Natasha Bluth)

The Williamsburg Trust Company building, 2016. Natasha Bluth

Buildings repurposed as churches always attracted the legendary writer Joseph Mitchell, including one particular Williamsburg building that never made it into his New Yorker columns. “I find myself standing in front of and looking up at [it] several times a year—I have never been able to figure out why,” he admitted in his unpublished memoirs. To Mitchell, the mystery of the old Williamsburg Trust Company on South Fifth Place between South Fifth Street and South Fourth Street was most alive in the summer dusk when it transformed into “the quarter of St. Petersburg in which Raskolnikov killed the old moneylender woman and her half sister.”

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Newly Signed Law Will Help Keep OId Folks Homes From Becoming Rich Folks Homes

(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

(Photo: Kavitha Surana)

It’s too late to save Rivington House, the former HIV treatment facility that a non-profit nursing home operator unexpectedly flipped to a luxury developer after the city quietly lifted a deed restriction. But a bill signed into law today should do something to prevent buildings designated for community use from becoming luxury condos.

The new law requires the city to maintain a searchable online database of properties with deed restrictions, and forces developers who want to have them lifted to inform their local City Council member, community board, and borough president. The law requires the mayor, a specially formed committee, and the Department of City Planning to review any such requests, and approve them with the mayor’s personal sign-off only if they’re deemed to be in the city’s best interest. While there had been talk of requiring the city’s stringent Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in such scenarios, the new law stops short of that.

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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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The Future of ’80/20′ Affordable Housing Hangs in the Balance: Can 421-A Be Fixed?

(Photo: C Ceres Merry)

(Photo: C Ceres Merry)

You may not have realized it, but the city has been in the midst of a “developocalypse” since January, when the state’s 421-a program expired. For decades, the program had fueled development by excusing building owners of property taxes for up to 25 years so long as they devoted at least 20 percent of their units to affordable housing. Earlier this month, it was announced that the stalemate that brought on the developocalpyse, or at least that’s how developers understood it, was over. As the state legislature now mulls over whether to approve the reauthorization of 421-a, City Council members are seeking ways to fix it, and make sure the program fulfills its original mission of creating affordable housing.

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How a Bunch of Brave New Futurists Zapped the Old Pearl River Mart Back to Life

A booth dedicated to the old Pearl River Mart (Photo: Nicole Disser)

A booth dedicated to the old Pearl River Mart (Photo: Nicole Disser)

“Preservationist” has become something of a slur, used to denigrate the old-timers and neo-hippies who’d rather save ratty old tenant buildings and dusty mom-and-pop stores than make way for clean big-box stores with cheap stuff for everyone, and skyscraping mixed-use luxury complexes with their affordable housing pittance. It’s sorta like: C’mon, New York City is, by its nature, dynamic and changing. But the ever-faster pace of development and the lightyear rate of change have made for an urban landscape where transformation takes place exponentially and squeezes out the very people who have made this city vibrant and interesting in the first place.

Over the weekend, a slew of more than 40 local and visiting artists, as well as organizations like the Chinatown Art Brigade (a grassroots effort tackling the divisive issue of gallery-led gentrification in their neighborhood) demonstrated that preservation doesn’t have to be backward-looking.

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A.G. Files Harassment Charges Against Manager of LES and Chinatown Apartments

(Image: Wikipedia)

(Image: Wikipedia)

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit today against the property manager and landlords of several apartment buildings in Chinatown and the Lower East Side for allegedly harassing rent-controlled tenants with “repeated illegal and deceptive practices.”  The complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court, accuses the buildings’ owners and Marolda Properties Inc., which manages the buildings, of attempting to bully tenants into vacating rent-regulated units using a variety of improper tactics.

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Protesters Urge Council Member to Curb Luxury Housing in Chinatown and LES

De Blasio as Monopoly man. (Photo: Nicole Disser)

De Blasio as Monopoly man. (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Perhaps you thought that the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side sounded angry earlier this year when about 60 activists associated with the group gathered outside Gracie Mansion in the bitter February cold to protest the mayor’s “big scam” of a housing plan. But that demonstration was nothing compared to the one staged Thursday, when the Coalition led a large, supremely loud protest against the loss of affordable housing.

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Everyone Looks Like an Insect from the Westlight, the New William Vale Hotel Bar

The view (Photo: Nicole Disser)

The view (Photo: Nicole Disser)

As of this afternoon, for the first time ever, you can make your way up to the tip top of the brand new William Vale hotel, clink glasses with your crew and look out over the expanse of Brooklyn from the Westlight, the new Williamsburg luxury hotel’s 22nd-floor bar with 360-degree views of the city skyline. Suddenly, Brooklyn will look almost insignificant and underdeveloped, teeming with pathetic, spartan life. Shift your godlike eyes down toward the Wythe Hotel and its unfortunate patrons will look like drunken, desperate ants. “Literally, that’s the Wythe– look how little it looks,” a PR rep laughed along with us.

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