Bully the Bully: Taking a Step Back at Samy Mahfar’s 102 Norfolk Street [OP-ED]

Posted on: December 12th, 2014 at 5:01 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

102 Norfolk St.

We broke news earlier this week that several tenants living in Samy Mahfar-owned buildings around the Lower East Side organized an association (“Mahfar Tenants Coaltion”) to help combat the controversial landlord’s terrible track record of harassment. Their focus for the moment is on the toxic lead levels at 102 Norfolk and 210 Rivington Streets earlier this year. A press conference was held, in which Councilwoman Rosie Mendez went “nuclear” on a Mahfar stooge. In response to all the drama, a former resident at 102 Norfolk Street – Steven Yee – wanted to break silence on the matter.

I used to live at 102 Norfolk, and was there for the initial days of construction and for the chaos that ensued. I started the tenants association there to combat SMA Equities (Samy Mahfar’s company) but I’ve always stayed true to my course with all the agencies from CAAAV to Cooper to AAFE to Councilwoman Chin’s office; my activist intentions were toward a “buyout.”

The reports outlining toxic lead levels were absolutely accurate at the time but testing was done and tenants were cleared. Follow-up lead reports show the readings as back to normal. I don’t know if SMA took additional steps to control these issues, but I do know that tenants are attempting to raise a certain level of awareness to their living situations or position themselves for a larger buyout (which I think is fair) so these initial reports were leaked after the fact.

That said I don’t think this is a specific tactic by SMA to move people anymore; I truly feel that they have a distinct level of inexperience in building conversions and development (incompetence?). Living at 102 Norfolk, I found out that work was not being done/scheduled with everyone on the same page. Has my animosity subsided over the past few months? Yes, absolutely yes, so I’m able to look at these things rationally now. I can’t speak for the other properties, nor will I address them but as I always said … I get it. From a business perspective, I get it.

This image has been archived or removed.

Bathroom ceiling collapse at 102 Norfolk, July 2014

I’m also a little annoyed with the politicians who are now so aggressively campaigning against these developments, especially when they were so proactive to help developers and their money when Bloomberg was mayor. New York politics has always been an underground publicity game. When I first approached the elected officials and non-profits, they blew me off; once I got the press involved, though, they jumped in with gusto to “assist” in our plight. I don’t trust them and doubt their sincerity.

CAAAV: they have always been very solid in my eyes defending the community, they can be aggressive and do things in a way that I don’t agree with but their intentions are true. I feel they need to realize that protests don’t work, that at some point they need to sit at a table.

Cooper Square Committee: I like Brandon. I think there is a righteousness that he carries but I think he needs to not make his personal feelings a part of the agenda.

AAFE: not a fan. I approached them first and they did nothing…absolutely nothing. They have a unique relationship with Ms. Chin and both weren’t even on the radar until the press was involved.

This image has been archived or removed.

Press conference in opposition to Samy Mahfar, December 2014

I am posting this because I’m not a bully, and fair is fair. The Lower East Side is changing; hell all of the city is changing and every community is battling for their homes where property values are exploding. This doesn’t change the fact, though, that people have the right to live in a safe and clean environment without being harassed and subjected to poor living conditions. That said, most buildings need upgrades, my apartment certainly did and these things cost money.

So let’s get serious here, it’s really about money isn’t it? I had a CAAAV volunteer tell me that “people with money are bad people”…no…wrong choice of words. That means a person earning $75,000 is worse than a person making $30,000? – dumb. I wanted to protect tenants who did not speak the language well, and the aforementioned groups are there to protect them. Then there are tenants that just want a higher buyout price, well, that’s their right. There are also tenants who just can’t afford to move and that’s fair, too. But let’s not ever forget that money is the key to all of this, from the developers to the tenants to the politicians to the non profit groups. Let’s not just look at issues but what is to be gained on all sides of this box.

This story has multiple pages:

Recent Stories

Good News/Bad News for East River Park [OP-ED]

The following editorial was written by Pat Arnow, a photographer and writer on the Lower East Side who helped found East River Park Action in 2019.  East River Park will remain entirely open and untouched by construction through the end of the year. The latest delay in the massive flood control project – the $1.45 […]

Peppa’s Jerk Chicken Scouts Stanton Street for Expansion

A popular jerk chicken spot in Brooklyn is headed to Hell Square on the Lower East Side. Crown Heights counter-service spot, Peppa’s Jerk Chicken, is currently eyeing 90-96 Stanton Street. The multi-storefront space previously hosted the short-lived Falafix. News of their likely arrival is confirmed by liquor license application materials submitted to Community Board 3 […]

One Week After Reopening, Nathan Straus Playground is Again Locked

Not so fast. One week after the Parks Department unlocked Nathan Straus Playground to the public, it’s again gated. Readers report that the padlocks returned on Tuesday without any communication from the city. As reported, the Lower East Side park, which abuts the Attorney Street cul-de-sac, had been closed without notice for nearly a month […]

Parisi Bakery Building on Elizabeth Street Listed for $5.99M

The NoHo building housing Parisi Bakery is up for sale, and the store may not survive. Robert Parisi – building owner and former head baker of the family business – listed 290 Elizabeth Street on the market. He’s seeking $5.99 million for the seven-unit, mixed-use tenement. Parisi purchased the property in 1983 for $200,000, property […]

Astor Place Hair to Close Permanently Next Month Due to Pandemic

You’ve seen, you’ve read, you’ve heard. News broke over the weekend that Astor Place Hairstylists, a bastion of affordable cuts, is closing down for good. Barring some miracle, the 74-year-old business will be another victim of this dreadful pandemic. Apparently, management informed staff last Friday. Its final day on the namesake block is at the […]