In August of 2009, 8 families – 29 people – residing at 128 Hester Street, lost their homes due to the intentional neglect of the building’s owner, William Su. After purchasing the building in July 2007, William Su did little to correct any problems even though the building conditions jeopardized the lives of the 8 families living in the building. He then reported his building’s violations to the Department of Buildings (DOB) in order to expedite demolition of the property. The DOB noted that the deterioration of 128 Hester was due in part to the construction of an 18-story Wyndham Hotel on an adjacent property at 91-93 Bowery also owned by William Su.
The New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal ordered William Su to pay relocation fees for the tenants on May 26, 2010, but has refused to comply. The 128 Hester Street tenants hang in limbo, awaiting some relief from the hardship they have suffered because of William Su’s willful indifference to the condition of the building and the welfare of its residents. On June 7, 2012, DHCR held a settlement conference between the landlord and the tenants; however, the landlord has refused to negotiate in good faith.
“It has been over two years since the original DHCR decision and William Su continues to skirt his responsibility and refuses to settle with the tenants of 128 Hester Street,” said Christopher Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality. “We are gathered here today to announce that we have taken additional action now that the hotel has officially opened. In addition to legal action against the principals, we have released an open letter addressing the lies William Su has spread about the case.”
“The eight displaced families have commenced a lawsuit against the principals and agents of the corporate entity now holding title to the building which includes William Su and Simon Wong,” said John Gorman, tenant lawyer. “In their suit the Tenants contend that through callous disregard for their welfare and safety, the owners of 128 Hester had allowed the building to deteriorate to a condition so hazardous the NYC Dept. of Buildings (DOB) ordered all occupants to vacate the building. The Tenants seek recovery for damages they have suffered due to the loss of their stabilized apartments, plus recoveries for property damage and the recovery of rents and deposits previously paid to the owners and their predecessors during the course of the long decline in the stability and safety of the building.”
“When the Wyndham Hotel was being built, the residents of 128 Hester Street were intentionally or unintentionally put in danger of losing their homes because of building violations,” said Susan Stetzer, of Community Board 3. “And they did lose their homes. Community groups have organized and referred approved local residents for hotel jobs—all were rejected within days of applying without even an interview. This hotel owes the residents that have lost their homes because of the hotel, and this hotel owes an explanation of why they cannot work with the community.”