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AAFE fights against tenant harassment on the Lower East Side

AAFE has helped organize a group of Essex Street tenants who are filing a lawsuit against their landlord for carrying out a frightening series of illegal construction jobs in a bid to force them out of their rent-stabilized apartments.

The tenants of 43 Essex Street, who will be represented by Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), have endured harassment in various forms since Paul Galasso, of 43 Essex LLC, purchased the building for $6.9 million in December, 2014. Illegal construction work has compromised the integrity of the building, causing structural damage to the tenants’ apartments including gaping holes in ceiling walls and cracked floor tiles with sharp protruding edges. The apartments also lack heat and hot water, forcing the tenants to boil water for showers. To make matters worse, the building is also without gas, leaving residents with no choice but to use portable stoves for cooking.

The landlords have also employed a notorious tenant relocator, Michel Pimienta of BSD Equities, to intimidate tenants into accepting buyout offers to leave. Mr. Pimienta’s “tenant relocating” operation was recently shut down after NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found that he had harassed rent-stabilized tenants and operated illegally in more than 60 rent-regulated buildings.

“Ever since the illegal construction began in my building and dust and waste entered my apartment through the window cracks, my wife and I have had great difficulty breathing in our apartment,” said tenant-petitioner Arnold Acosta. “We felt the shuddering of jack-hammers beneath our apartment and heard falling debris behind the walls. Our landlord has also hired a tenant relocation specialist who has persistently contacted me to talk about my apartment. We should feel peace and warmth in our home, but instead we fear for our health and safety.”

AAFE Executive Director, Christopher Kui, pledged the organization’s commitment to supporting the plight of the 43 Essex Street tenants: “AAFE has a rich history of preserving affordable housing by standing up for tenants’ rights and fighting back against tenant harassment,” he said. “We are committed to maintaining the diversity of New York City as a place where working families, immigrants and seniors are not unlawfully priced out of their homes.”

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