The Crazy World of NYC Landlords-Individual Stories of Other Characters

The Crazy World of NYC Landlords-Individual Stories-Other Characters

I was at my desk one morning when my assistant advised me that there was a boiler outage at one of our largest properties in Washington Heights, NYC.   She knew this from a few tenants that were affected and decided to call her.   Even though tenants knew that they should first reach out to their super and if not satisfied with the results, they had a building specific contact in our building repair coordinator department.   However, there were always those tenants who wanted to call the “boss,” meaning me or my partner.    I immediately contacted my partner, who, I still believe to this day, was the best operator/manager in the multi-family business in the City.   More about him in later articles.

He advised me that he was awakened in the middle of the night by the property manager who had this property in his portfolio to manage and oversee the super and the property operation.    Apparently, an underground gas line had ruptured from the extreme cold of the winter.   He ensured me that he was on top of it and that our boiler repair company was there and doing what they could.   Dealing with ruptured gas lines is always a difficult issue for property owners as it is not something you just go in and fix like a water line.    At the time, the process was to first notify Con Edison, the gas provider, who immediately shuts down the line to protect against the risk of an explosion that could not only cause greater damage, but injury to people as well.    

Once Con Edison shuts down the line, the boiler repair company can trace to find the part of the gas line that has ruptured, figure out the necessary repair and to then submit a plan to the City to obtain its approval to make the repair.   After obtaining the approval, you then need to go to Con Edison to set up the repair process and ultimately the resumption of service to the property.   Often, an owner, upon determining it is not an immediate fix, will hire a temporary heat producing boiler to be parked on the street and pipe heat into the building’s heating pipes.   These were the steps that we were taking.

We were also ready to provide hot plates for the tenants to use to make their meals due to the gas also off for their stoves and ovens.

However, on the same day that I heard about the gas line rupture, I was called by a local community activist, who asked to meet with me to discuss how we were going to deal with the tenants and the outage of their heat and the gas for their stoves and ovens.    I was happy to meet with him and set a meeting up for later in the afternoon at his office.    I decided to take my assistant with me in the event that some of the tenants from the building would be there, many of whom spoke only Spanish. She could be of major assistance because my Spanish was mediocre, and she was raised speaking Spanish.   (At the time, I was taking Spanish classes at the Learning Access, as it was something that would help in my relations with the tenants, most of our superintendents.)  

We entered the Tenant Advocate’s office, which was on the second floor, above a small grocery store.   I did not know him, nor had I ever heard of him, but I wanted to hear what he had to say and to assure him and the tenants that we would do the right thing to protect them and help them in this emergency.

He was extremely cordial and quite friendly.    He told me that he had spoken to only a few of the tenants but was totally aware that the gas was turned off and that they didn’t have heat.    I filled him in on what steps we were taking and our expectations of how long it would take to put the situation back to normal.   By the way, there were no tenants there, nor did he have any other of his staff with him (if he had any).    After I finished explaining the process that we had undertaken, he asked if my assistant would leave the room for a few minutes so that he could speak with me privately.   Although this felt rather odd, I thought maybe he wanted to give me a hard time privately.    

So, we are sitting there alone, and he takes out a yellow pad and scribbles something on it.    He then turned it towards me, without a word, to show me what he had written.   On the pad he wrote:

                “$10,000”

In big bold numbers.    My immediate reaction was:

“Is that for the tenants?”

He didn’t say a word but pointed at himself.

I said:

“It’s for you?”

He shook his head affirmatively.    I said:

“Not what we do. “

I then told him that we would do what’s right by the tenants and I got up and left.

When I told my partner, he said to ignore him, and my partner assured me that he would get the job done quickly.

My meeting was on a Thursday.   On the following Tuesday, it was reported that the same Tenant Advocate was found bludgeoned to death and dismembered.   His body found in trash bags in the Bronx.   Six years later, a NYC building owner and his brother were arrested and charged with his murder.   The Tenant Advocate in their cas was harassing this Landlord as the Landlord was allowing drug dealing to run rampant in his properties and not taking care of violations.

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