Asian Americans for Equality and the former tenants of a Lower Manhattan building, 128 Hester St., are calling on the landlord, William Su, to pay $1 million in court ordered relocation fees.
In 2009, the property was damaged as a result of the landlord’s construction of the neighboring Wyndham Garden Hotel. Su failed to protect 128 Hester St., and the building was forcibly vacated and demolished, forcing all tenants onto the street. These tenants were forced to find housing outside of Chinatown, leaving the neighborhood where they had longstanding cultural roots and friendships. Their new rents have often been significantly higher — with many tenants struggling to make ends meet.
With the help of AAFE, tenants won $1 million for the loss of their homes from the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). This award was upheld in State Supreme Court. The owner continues to drag out the case by using every appeal to burden the tenants further, and now has put the vacant lot up for sale for $9.5 million.
AAFE, the tenants and members of the community are calling on all prospective buyers of 128 Hester St. to beware, and urged the owner to pay his debts to the tenants so that they aren’t forced to go through one more, cold holiday season without restitution.
“AAFE is determined to see justice served for the tenants of 128 Hester Street,” said AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui. “We first helped organize these tenants over seven years ago after they were thrown from their homes and into the street with no place to turn. Hopefully, this holiday season is the one where William Su finds it in his heart to give these seniors and working families the compensation they deserve.”
“Years after William Su destroyed their rent-stabilized homes, these families are still looking for a measure of justice for the willful neglect and dislocation caused by his irresponsible actions,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “Now we are faced with the prospect of Mr. Su selling the property and dissolving any business entity that would pay these families for the loss of their homes. I warn any potential buyer of this property to avoid doing business with an owner that refuses to comply with a government order to pay money owed to his tenants, and allows innocent families to go through another holiday season without the compensation they deserve.”
“Affordable housing is what protects our seniors from relentless real estate market forces that are outside all of our control,” said Assemblymember-Elect Yuh-Line Niou. “It lets people stay in their neighborhoods, build community, and create a life with dignity regardless of age or income bracket. Because of this intrinsic value, affordable housing must be protected at all costs. Today we not only stand and fight for the units that were lost and the lives that were affected, but we also stand to send a message to any future investor. They must play by the rules because this community will not give up on a single unit or a single tenant. I thank AAFE for standing by these residents for so many years and for refusing to back down in this fight.”
“Community Board 3 has always held preservation of affordable housing as its highest priority,” said Community Board 3 Chair Jamie Rogers. “We have stood with AAFE in their fight for the rights of the tenants of 128 Hester Street. It is unconscionable that the former landlord has been allowed to profit from the destruction of the affordable homes of these tenants. Community Board 3 continues to support AAFE in their struggle to have William Su comply with court decisions and protect the rights of these tenants.”