Reader Report: Landlord Continues to Harass Chinese Tenants at 135-137 Eldridge Street

Posted on: December 4th, 2015 at 5:00 am by

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135-137 Eldridge St.

​A year later, the alleged tenant harassment at 135-137 Eldridge Street shows no sign of abating. Case in point – we’re told that a few residents were allegedly served 30-day lease termination notices before Thanksgiving due to ambiguous “repair work.” Essentially made homeless at a time when the spotlight focuses to those in need.

To refresh your recollection … owner R.A. Cohen & Associates purchased the double-wide tenement building in October 2014 for $11 million. Shortly thereafter, the problems reportedly began. Same old story, really; the landlord wants the rent regulated tenants out of the equation. As previously reported, the housing stock inside 135-137 Eldridge is comprised of roughly 28 rent regulated apartments (controlled and stabilized), and occupied predominantly by Chinese families.

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A source familiar with the ongoing drama provides an update on what’s happening behind that ornate facade.

  • Remaining residents in the building formed a tenants association.
  • The landlord successfully evicted and/or bought out at least 5 units with low-balled amounts. Many were not legal residents, and management knew this.
  • The landlord evicted the two commercial tenants on the first floor.
  • From the harassment 101 playbook, management apparently changed everyone’s unit and mailbox number. Fudging the address system tricks the Division of Housing and Community Renewal into erasing the rent history of any particular unit. The agency has no way of tracking the shift, and rent regulation is dislodged.
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In the meantime, R.A. Cohen & Associates recently commenced renovating the building, inside and out. Current jobs include remodeling the aforementioned five apartments, replacing the roof, exterior pointing, changing electrical lines, plumbing, and gas lines). Needless to say, the work is totally disrupting the lives of the existing tenants. Most of these repairs seem unnecessary, but as our tipster notes, the landlord banks on this type of strategy to (1) harass the existing tenants, and (2) increase the rent via Major Capital Improvement (MCI).

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Moreover, residents of 135-137 Eldridge allege that workers on the roof tossed everyone’s satellite dishes and cut the Time Warner Cable lines. The dish equipment (Dish Network and Direct TV) themselves was discarded inside the building by the landlord. People were without TV, phone, and internet services for weeks. We hear that many residents had to reimburse the dish providers for the missing satellite dishes.

With regard to renovation, there is a laundry list of complaints filed with the Department of Buildings. In fact, there has been a steady flow of documented issues since July. Most relate to “falling debris” and chipping plaster/dust particles due to the increased construction. Another harassment tactic is the purported renovation activity at 7:30am on Saturday mornings. (After hours variances are filed, yet with work beginning at 9am.)

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Not listed in this database is the fact that two residents’ bathroom ceilings collapsed due to the ongoing work. Many residents are suffering in silence.

Meanwhile, electeds and pols have been notified. We’re told that Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s office, her offshoot Asian Americans for Equality, and Borough President Gale Brewer are all on the case. They’re collectively working with the Tenants Association to resolve the problems.

But we all know how these things work out. The deck is perennially stacked in favor of asshole landlords and developers.

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