MAHFAR TENANTS COALITION DEMANDS PROPER MITIGATION OF LEAD DURING CONSTRUCTION

PETITION: Stand with Mahfar Tenants Coalition: Demand Safe, Lead-Free Homes!
YOUTUBE: Rosie Mendez calls out Mahfar agent

PRESS RELEASE BELOW:

For Immediate Release
DECEMBER 10, 2014
PDF Link here (bit.ly/mahfar210)
Contact:           Brandon Kielbasa
(212) 228-8210    bkielbasa@coopersquare.org

MAHFAR TENANTS COALITION DEMANDS PROPER MITIGATION OF LEAD DURING CONSTRUCTION

Tenants find high lead concentrations in their buildings and speak out against the unsafe construction practices used by LES landlord Samy Mahfar.

WHAT: Press Conference / WHERE: 210 Rivington St. / WHEN: 12:30pm – 1:30pm

mahfar210 Press Conference Banner sm

8-foot banner displayed at press conference – Click to enlarge

December 10, New York – Tenants of two Samy Mahfar-owned Lower East Side buildings, 210 Rivington St. and 102 Norfolk St., have now both received reports from NYC’s Dept. of Health indicating unsafe levels of lead in their buildings.  The lead was spread throughout both buildings by mismanaged gut-renovation construction, which has surged through the buildings for months as this landlord races to convert its rent-regulated units into luxury rentals.

The tenants of the Mahfar Tenants Coalition – a coalition of multiple buildings – are now calling for two concrete demands:

1) When doing construction work in his buildings, Mr. Mahfar must put in place a proper lead mitigation plan that utilizes an EPA-certified abatement contractor.  This would apply to all construction work going forward that poses any risk of lead exposure to tenants.

2) City agencies must better regulate existing lead laws, which are strong [on paper] but are rendered ineffective by poor on-the-ground enforcement.  Additional measures must be taken to protect tenants across NYC.

In addition to these lead findings, it has already been revealed that Mr. Mahfar employed Michel Pimienta – the AG-investigated, unlicensed “tenant relocator” known to use unscrupulous tactics – to move out rent-regulated tenants across a number of his buildings.  Those tenants who remained were subjected to the effects of mismanaged construction, including (but not limited to) exposure to lead.

“For fourteen months now, the residents of 210 Rivington St. have been exposed to hazardous construction practices. From last winter through this summer our hallways and homes were blanketed in dust. Even months after paint and plaster were blasted off common-area walls and stairs, and after multiple units in the building underwent gut-renovation, we still found confirmed lead levels over five times higher than federal regulations allow. We will never know our true level of exposure as these results from NYC’s Dept. of Health were gathered during the lighter stage of work. We suspect that earlier tests would have revealed immensely higher levels.” – A statement from the 210 Rivington Street Tenants Assoc.

“It was disturbing for us to learn that our landlord exposed the families living in this building to extremely high levels of lead from the demolition in the building, up to 2,750 times the safe limit! Lead-based paint is a serious health issue and exposure can have long-term health effects. We are now forced to be tested regularly for years to come to see if there are any residual effects from the exposure.” – A statement from the 102 Norfolk Street Tenants Assoc.  

Council Member Rosie Mendez said, “Residents at 210 Rivington have been living in untenable living conditions with prolonged construction that is impacting their health, safety and peace of mind.  Recent inspections have confirmed high levels of lead that the tenants are exposed to on a daily basis.  The owner, Samy Mahfar, must put a lead mitigation plan in place that will address and prioritize the tenants’ safety, as well as minimize any health risk.  NYC’s Department of Health should bring civil prosecution against Mahfar if he fails to put a plan in place considering that he is the owner of 102 Norfolk Street where lead levels were 2,700 times the legal limit.”

Council Member Margaret Chin said, “I stand with the tenants of 102 Norfolk Street and 210 Rivington Street and our community housing organizations, as we continue working together to improve quality of life and safety conditions.  I continue to strongly condemn any actions by the landlord, Samy Mahfar, to undertake dangerous construction that has already resulted in unsafe lead exposure for the victimized tenants of these Lower East Side buildings. Mr. Mahfar must have a legitimate lead mitigation plan in place before he does any further renovations in these buildings. In addition, I call on our city agencies to take a more proactive and collaborative approach to enforcing the law that should be protecting tenants from unsafe lead exposure.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, “I’ve been fighting landlords like Samy Mahfar all over Manhattan – those who refuse to use safe procedures, harass rent-regulated tenants, and only erratically correct HPD violations.  I’m proud to stand with tenants at 102 Norfolk, 210 Rivington, & and the Cooper Square Committee – along with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin, Speaker Sheldon Silver, and State Senator Daniel Squadron. We call on Mr. Mahfar to use proper lead mitigation techniques when doing renovations and help keep the tenants safe in their homes. I will also continue to work with my colleagues to see how we can strengthen regulations and enforcement to make sure that tenants are informed of lead levels in their buildings.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron said, “Landlords have an obligation to abate lead hazards in a way that is safe and consistent with city and state regulations.  And when tenants ask for information about lead levels in their buildings, city agencies must be transparent and timely in their response.  I look forward to working with the tenants at 102 Norfolk, 210 Rivington and other buildings affected by this landlord, the Cooper Square Committee, the NYC Coalition to End Lead Poisoning, my elected colleagues, UJC, CAAAV, and city agencies to enforce existing lead regulations and protect the safety and health of tenants.”

NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “It is completely unacceptable for residents to be exposed to dangerous levels of lead and the building owner must take immediate action to mitigate the danger and place the safety of tenants above all else. In order to ensure that all proper safety measures are taken, I am calling on the city to inspect the buildings in question and enforce the regulations that protect tenants from toxins.”

Garrett Wright, Senior Staff Attorney at the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project said, “During the past year, Mr. Mahfar has repeatedly violated the law by exposing tenants at 102 Norfolk Street and 210 Rivington Street to toxic lead paint and other hazardous substances.  We are calling on the City of New York to take immediate action in order to protect these tenants from such serious dangers to their health and wellbeing.”

Wai Yee Poon, Chinatown Tenants Union Organizer at CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities said, “We have had tenants of Samy Mahfar coming to us to complain about construction, renovation, and even harassment issues, so unfortunately, I am not surprised that 210 Rivington St. and 102 Norfolk St. tenants are experiencing unsafe lead levels in their homes. We demand that Mr. Mahfar be transparent about his lead mitigation plan before he does any kind of renovation in all his buildings and coordinate with tenants. We also demand the city to improve their enforcement on the law requiring lead mitigation and actively educate tenants in multiple languages about the process.”

Yonatan Tadele, tenant organizer from the Cooper Square Committee said, “Speculative landlords seem to constantly pose problems for NYC’s rent-regulated tenants.  We believe these tenants need additional protections in dealing with speculators – and that includes strengthening enforcement of our City’s lead laws.”

These Dept. of Health reports, coupled with numerous Stop Work Orders and violations issued by the City’s Dept. of Buildings, confirm the obvious: that work done in Samy Mahfar’s buildings is unsafe.  The Mahfar Tenants Coalition demands safe & habitable housing, during and after construction in their buildings.  We are also urging the City to reform & strengthen enforcement surrounding Local Law 1, the City’s existing lead law, to sufficiently protect tenants in buildings undergoing mass gut-renovations.

 

PRESS RELEASE: Lower East Side tenants of Samy Mahfar owned buildings applaud AG investigation into notorious Tenant Relocator

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 29, 2014

Click here for PDF download

CONTACT:   Brandon Kielbasa

Lead Organizer, Cooper Square Committee

(212) 228-8210, ext 4 – bkielbasa@coopersquare.org

Lower East Side tenants of Samy Mahfar owned buildings applaud AG investigation into notorious Tenant Relocator

Tenants speak out against the extensive use of tenant relocator by LES landlord Samy Mahfar.

October 29, New York — Lower East Side tenants of 102 Norfolk St., 210 Rivington St., 22 Spring St., 143 Ludlow St., and 113 Stanton St. applaud the Attorney General’s investigation into “tenant relocator” Michel Pimienta. On Monday, October 27, 2014, AG Eric Schneiderman reached an agreement censuring his relocation efforts. The agreement requires Pimienta to cease all relocation efforts with his company, Misidor LLC, pay a $40,000 fine, and acquire a real estate broker’s license.

This is a huge victory for tenants familiar with Pimienta’s efforts to push out rent-stabilized tenants so their units could be converted into luxury units. The common denominator between these tenants and Pimienta is LES landlord Samy Mahfar, who employed Pimienta extensively in the buildings he owns.

In addition to employing this unlicensed “tenant relocator” known to use unscrupulous tactics, Mahfar has recently caught the watchful eye of numerous elected officials for demolition work at 102 Norfolk St., exposing tenants there to jaw-dropping levels of toxic lead.  Security staff preventing building access to City inspectors and collapsed ceilings in apartments are just a few of the extreme quality-of-life issues that have become commonplace in Mahfar-owned buildings during construction.

“Prior to the demolition work that began in our building, Michel Pimienta approached me on one of two occasions claiming to be a representative of the City of New York looking to update tenant records.  He misrepresented himself to me in order to obtain sensitive information from me and other tenants.  His actions were misleading, inappropriate, and invasive once we learned how he used this simple informational request obtained from other tenants against them,” said a tenant from 102 Norfolk Street who wished to remain anonymous.

Translated quote from Mr. Lam, Kwan Tai from 22 Spring St. Tenant Association, “This is great news. We welcome the Attorney General’s success with making Michel Pimienta pay a fine and give up his ‘relocation’ business. Being that he is no longer in business to harass us is good for tenants everywhere. People like Pimienta are only working for the profit of the landlord.”

“Affordability continues to be one of the Lower East Side’s greatest challenges — unscrupulous ‘tenant relocators’ are a shameful and illegal part of the affordability picture,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for pursuing this investigation, and commend the tenants and the Cooper Square Committee for confronting these unacceptable tactics. I look forward to continuing to work with tenants, advocates, and my elected colleagues to put an end to the pattern of tenant harassment.”

“The fact that Samy Mahfar actually celebrated his use of Michel Pimienta’s ‘invaluable’ relocation services just goes to show why we’re taking action to protect the tenants of 102 Norfolk Street and Mr. Mahfar’s other Lower East Side buildings,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman’s successful effort to put Mr. Pimienta out of business, and I will continue to work with my elected colleagues, Cooper Square Committee and CAAAV to stop Mr. Mahfar from further endangering the welfare of his tenants.”

The following is a quote from Samy Mahfar on Misidor’s recently-taken-offline website endorsing Pimienta and his success in removing rent-regulated tenants from their homes:

 

Samy Mahfar,
SMA Equities
It is a pleasure to work with Mr. Pimienta and his company. The experience that his company has brought to our firm has helped us re-position our properties more than we anticipated, and his insight and intuition have been instrumental in our success. Mr. Pimienta is trustworthy and honest, and we have always had a positive experience working with him. I highly recommend his services to people I know in the industry.”Source:
« http://web.archive.org/web/20131020175100/http://misidor.com/index.php?p=view_misidor_testimonial »

Quote from the Cooper Square Committee, “Samy Mahfar – who, as far as we know, hired and utilized the services of Michel Pimienta more than any other landlord in the Lower East Side – willingly subjected his tenants to Pimienta’s deceitful and unscrupulous practices, all in the name of maximizing his profits.”

 

Quote from CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, “We thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for working with us to protect tenants from Michel Pimienta. CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities has been working with Chinatown tenants who live in fear because Pimienta and his Chinese-speaking colleague incessantly call and knock on their doors to drive them out of their homes. Predatory landlords such as SMA Equities and Silvershore Properties hire these ‘tenant relocators’ and have contributed to the loss of thousands of rent-stabilized units. We will continue working with tenants, Cooper Square Committee, and the Attorney General to challenge these landlords in their aggressive harassment and displacement of low-income tenants so that we can protect our critical affordable housing stock.”

The Attorney General’s investigation into Michel Pimienta sends a clear message that tenant relocators who harass tenants will be held accountable. The tenants of Mahfar-owned buildings are sending the message that landlords who hire these relocators will also be held accountable.

###

Tenants of Kushner building at 170-174 E 2nd St speak out about enduring run-amok construction

Media Advisory (DOC file) | Press release (PDF file)

Press:

Village Voicehttp://bit.ly/1qcYLHc
DNAinfo: http://dnain.fo/1rTZ15d
Bedford & Boweryhttp://bit.ly/1s5Jop6

2014 RGB Vote

1% and 2.75%

More details here.

Despite a massive turnout of tenants at last night’s Rent Guidelines Board vote, and calls for a rent freeze, the RGB voted for a 1% increase on one-year leases, and 2.75% for two-year leases. While it’s disappointing that the RGB didn’t vote for a rent freeze, the 1% increase for a one-year lease is the lowest ever in the 45 year history of the RGB. The tenants’ movement can take credit for making that happen. Now let’s focus on strengthening the NY State rent laws when they come up for renewal in June of next year. Let’s stay mobilized!

~ Steve Herrick, Executive Director

MHA co-op application process

Dear affordable housing seeker,
The Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association (MHA) is no longer accepting requests for applications. If you applied, you will be notified by 10/31/2014 whether you are or are not selected for an interview. For more affordable housing opportunities click here. For more details on the MHA process, including if you have received an application and have questions, click below.

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Experienced out-of-control construction? Take the RTE survey!

rte2014feb-img

We are working on collecting data on what tenants face during mismanaged construction so that we can create new laws and put an end to it.  If this is something you have experienced, please come into the CSC office (61 E 4th St) to pick up and fill out a Real-Time Enforcement Construction survey.  Tenant leaders and CSC organizers can also bring surveys to your building for you and your neighbors to fill out, or you can get help get involved with mass distribution yourself! Email Brandon for more details.

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From a Satisfied CSC Client

In the summer of 2010, I was facing some financial difficulty and had fallen behind on rent payments for my rent stabilized apartment on Ave B. Fearing that I would be evicted from my apartment, I was recommended by a friend to get in touch with Brandon Kielbasa at The Cooper Square Committee. Brandon had previously helped her with some issues that she was having in her Lower East Side apartment, and she informed me that the Committee was a great recourse for East Village residents.

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