On May 9, 2007 I became a legal subtenant on a two year lease in Fort-Tryon Gardens coop on Bennett Avenue in Washington Heights, New York City.
I was told by the broker that the building was non-smoking and so was the apartment. This was not written into the lease. There were no signs of smoking in the apartment or the building.
Within a week the building unravelled to show that it was filled to the brim with smokers. These smokers legally smoked in every room of their apartment including the bathroom and closet.
The apartment also unravelled when I wiped the tub, it was rusted and had a huge hole in the middle. The tub’s side revealed more than a nick. Every water faucet and the toilet had holes in it and they were leaking. The kitchen and bathroom tiles put in after I took the apartment were stained 100%. Not one lock on the door was working. The front door key with a set of the apartment’s keys had been given to an unknown workman who had gone missing and so had the broker with the monies.
Once I actually moved into the apartment, I found that the building honored illegal smoke in the hallway, the stairwells, the elevators, the window awnings for the hallway, at the front and back doors, outside other tenant’s windows and the laundry room. The smokers had beer with their smoke in these choice spots.
I asked the city if 911 preferred to go after these smokers if they knew they were drinking and the answer was yes if the smokers were bothering me. Well they are outside my apartment and talking on their cell phone or talking in a group. I must pass them on the stairwell in order to get to my apartment as I cannot take an elevator that is full of smoke and cigarette butts.
When the smokers’ little pleasure fest was done for the hour or 45 minutes. they left behind their cigarette butts and big beer bottles and cans of beer. Most of them have habits once every hour, some every few hours and some of them are non-stop smoking machines. When asked to not smoke in the illegal places they said no, or I’m sorry and kept smoking or got angry and ganged up. They keep my place filled up with live cigarette smoke layers 24 hours.
I apprised the landlord, building marketing director and broker of the situation in writing and over the phone. They got back weeks later and asked me to provide them with the apartments that are illegal smoking. I immediately complied and enlisted others who also suffered from the illegal smoke coming into their apartments. The above three Representatives of this coop never followed up because those people just kept smoking. They did not cc me a copy of the letter and they did not call me and confirm that they had done so.
I did not want to believe the building management would do nothing. It seems the ultimate in inhumanity and cruelty. I had requested the landlord to follow up on the signs as they were not up within a month. She said she had been told they were up. She followed up, they replied “we are doing something, we’ve ordered signs, its not done overnight.” To my November 2007 notice of continued pervasive smoke conditions in my apartment their reply was “Please have patience with us.”
They did put up ‘no smoking’ xerox paper signs up fairly quickly after I requested it in the beginning. The smokers or major shareholder, Clipper Equity, tore them down immediately. I told the representatives that the signs were down and when they put them up again could they include Spanish? They said yes.
They had no intention of putting those signs up though they said they were working on it. The first week of December 2007 the City mandated signs. The building responded with Xerox paper copies of City smoke free law “no smoking” call 311 signs in one location on each floor scotch taped to the walls.
The elevator is down for more than a month, only because I contacted and followed through with the Department of Buildings about its smoking issues. The hallways and their heaters are now clean only because I sent the Tobacco Unit pictures of about 20 cigarette butts under the hallway heater and cigarettes scattered across the hallway. The unit sent the two pictures to the Sanitation Department. Now when the reps get the Department warning they run and get the mop.
I figured out if I left this apartment today I would have paid $1675 a month. That includes the locks on the door and window gate and brokers fee and rent. That’s what it cost me. So what can I get on the market in New York City for that amount? And since New York City does not have a policy to protect the rights of nonsmokers, their policy is to protect the smokers, its unlikely I would improve my situation.
I have continued deepening my research and calling additional support to help me with this issue. HUD has filed my complaint against the building as of January 8, 2008. The City as of today may take on public advocacy for me. An advocacy that came about because 311 wasn’t going to file a change request for workplace smoking for me. Another advocate had told me to call 311. That if construction workers are constructing an apartment that has no occupant in it and they are smoking in there, that apartment is considered a workplace. New York City smoke free ordinance prohibits smoking in the workplace. 311 at all levels denied me this change request. I asked them if: I have lived in New York City for 35 years, I’ve paid taxes to the hilt, I’ve never been on welfare or any kind of public assistance, I’ve contributed a great deal of my time to New York City charitable activities. I even got your smoke-free online form to be responsive to apartments and a response of some kind to the change requester. I even got 311’s response to recognize that illegal smoking is also in apartments and coop residences. So I ask you, what will you the City do for me? Is it all take, all the time? And the 311 asked me would you like to talk to public advocacy. And I said yes, thank you so much for helping me.
In my research of the underwriter of this coop, Clipper Equity, I find that this is a billion dollar private equity club. That they have a history of preventing the shareholders in this Fort-Tryon Gardens coop from having any say in the building. That club has been backed by major lobbies, such as Dutko Worldwide and Kasire of Nixon Peabody, a prolific lobbyist and fundraiser. By Rev. A. R. Bernard and Rev. Calvin O. Butts III and Alphonso R. Johnson, federal HUD secretary. These people know about Clipper Equity’s past history not only in Fort Tryon Garden coop (it is also known to people who live here and experience daily drug busts in the courtyard and front of the building, as cookie island). They also know of their other slum gardens, Flatbush Gardens.
This club was able to overpower Chuck Schumer, Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo’s resistance in their wish to buy Starrett City. Indeed, they did buy Starrett City. Starrett City DealWatch $221,000 per apartment for low income housing in East New York. See Clipper, Government Fight for Starrett City.
If they could do that then where do any of us stand as we try to survive in this city that is run by private equity and hedge fund?
Who will be our voice? Don’t we have a right to continue to live in the City? And don’t we have a right to live in that city without having cigarette smoke at our desks because people are smoking right outside the door and window of the building. Don’t we have right to walk down the street smoke free, not just to follow like some dog after a lowlife who is smoking like a locomotive. Shall we continue to accept terrorism in the form of cigarette butts thrown at us while we are captive at a bus stop, red light, crowded street, subway tunnel or subway elevator?
Must we wake up in the morning like a bum on skid row with cigarette smoke and tobacco coated on our clean hair, our clean body, our clean clothes in our closet, force fed up our nostrils all night, our lungs hurting and filled with the forced fed smoke by these addicted monsters of our society? Monsters that the health care industry, the insurance industry, the tobacco industry and thus, the politicians and the taxing authorities, totally, irrevocably, support in the nicotine addicts public masturbation activities.