Mahfar Tenants at 113 Stanton Street Sue SMA Equities for Toxic Lead Levels 200 Times Legal Limit (Plus Asbestos)

Posted on: March 2nd, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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113 Stanton St.

For the second time in the last few years, battle-hardened tenants of an SMA Equities (aka Samy Mahfar) property on the Lower East Side are taking legal action. Those dwelling in 113 Stanton Street filed a lawsuit against the controversial landlord in New York City Housing Court on February 19 for harassment and essentially fostering a dangerous living environment.

The lawsuit is apparently a “Group HP and Harassment Case” which seeks fines and assurances that future construction work is in compliance with the law. Interior renovations had been halted under a temporary restraining order after SMA Equities was served, but Judge Cheryl Gonzales lifted that ban on Friday afternoon, only to re-adjourn later this week to further discuss the multiple unresolved issues against the landlord.

SMA Equities acquired the five-story tenement last September for $5.25 million. The conversion to luxury began in January, when permits were filed with the city for work on the fourth floor and rooftop. Residents claim that SMA Equities violated every single health and safety protocol promised in their extremely vague, half-page, demolition and lead removal memo sent at the outset. Additionally, tenants were made to sign a document that read: “I have received a copy of the lead hazard information packages informing me of the potential risk of the lead hazard exposure from renovation activity to be performed in my building.”

Toxic lead levels are just one of the issues cited in the legal action. Yup. In another instance of déjà vu, swab tests conducted by the Department of Health indicated lead levels 200 times the hazardous legal limit. In fact, the contamination was so bad (i.e. improper disposal and dust plumes) that those in the building allegedly became sick with chronic headaches and a residual cough that lasted for weeks. As such, 113 Stanton is the third Mahfar property in less than three months to suffer from this dangerous exposure, behind 210 Rivington and 102 Norfolk (3,000 times the limit). Guess Mahfar and company haven’t learned their lessons.

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There is lots of asbestos on the roof

But there’s more. Naturally. Below are additional concerns regarding the ongoing harassment alleged:

Asbestos

The residents and members of the Mahfar Tenants Alliance discovered 2,000 square-feet of asbestos currently on the roof. This information was buried in the “virtual jobs” folder on the DOB website and was inspected by the NYC DEP back in October 2014. SMA Equities apparently had not disclosed the massive extent of asbestos on the roof. Furthermore, there are allegations of zero transparency regarding whether asbestos removal was part of the reckless demolition that took place on January 29, and lasted two and half weeks. We are told that SMA Equities refused to allow members of the court or any city agency a proper walkthrough to ascertain the potential dangers. There are, however, plans to build a roof deck (according to permits filed) and they’re asking the tenants to take their word that the asbestos will not be disturbed.

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Heat readout during afternoon at 113 Stanton

Turning off the heat

There are six heat risers (i.e. pipes) that deliver heat to the building and its individual apartments. SMA Equities allegedly had two taken off-line right after the heat and water was cut (February 18). They then asked to gain access to each apartment to drill holes and install valves in pipes that reach to the ceiling to “fix” the issue. Daily room temperatures between 45 and 65 degrees … during the tundra of February!

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Unloading allegedly contaminated debris without proper suits

The hearing this past Friday further revealed that SMA Equities has no interest in settling the score with regard to past transgressions. Only that they’ll move forward and make nice.

For its part, SMA Equities completely denies everything. A press release sent after Friday’s proceedings notes that, “SMA Equities takes great pride in our commitment to health and safety of all of our tenants and to improving the quality of life in the Lower East Side. SMA Equities currently has no violations on record at 113 Stanton regarding any issues related to lead safety or sufficient heat and hot water.”

Meanwhile, the much heralded Tenant Harassment Prevention Task Force – a joint effort by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Mayor Bill de Blasio – is nowhere in sight…

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