AAFE and several other organizations have joined City Council member Margaret Chin to advocate for the tenants of 173 Henry St. On Feb. 22, members of the 173 Henry Street Tenants Association rallied outside the Federal Courthouse in Lower Manhattan before a key legal hearing. The residents won a victory when Judge Paul Engelmeyer ordered a preliminary injunction, preventing the property owner from disabling the building’s elevator.
Among the tenants in the building is 64-year-old Chee Sum Ng, a longtime 7th floor resident. His landlord, King Henry Realty, has been threatening to shut down elevator service for renovations. Ng is terminally ill and needs to leave his apartment for dialysis treatments several days each week.
The lawsuit was filed by AAFE and Legal Services NYC’s Manhattan program (Manhattan Legal Services). In his order, the judge said the plaintiff had proven “irreparable harm.” The judge wrote that Mr. Eng would be at “grave risk of serious injury or death” if the elevator is taken out of commission.
“AAFE has a long history and tradition of educating, training, assisting, and advocating on behalf of tenants to ensure they have safe living conditions in their homes,” said AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui. “We are working with tenants to fight back against tactics used by their owners intended to force them to leave their homes, such as creating illegal construction zones in their buildings and shutting down essential services. We are proud to stand with the 173 Henry Street Tenants’ Association, Manhattan Legal Services, and our elected officials to send the message that we will continue to fight for safe and habitable homes.”
“Housing that is affordable, safe and accessible is not a luxury—it is a human right,” said Council member Margaret Chin. “For seniors and disabled New Yorkers, a working elevator is a lifeline to the outside world. Without an elevator, trips to the doctor’s office and the grocery store become almost impossible for residents on higher floors. “We are here today to demand that this landlord end harassment through construction, and restore basic services like working elevators, reliable heat and adequate hot water. The safety and security of residents must come before profit. Together with residents, advocates and my fellow elected officials, we say to this landlord, ‘Enough is enough.’”
“New Yorkers deserve safe, livable, affordable housing and it is unconscionable that a landlord would jeopardize the health of a tenant in this manner,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “I applaud Legal Services NYC and Asian Americans for Equality for their advocacy and seeking resolution on behalf of Mr. Ng and all elderly residents of this building. Unscrupulous acts by landlords will not be tolerated and I am proud of 173 Henry Street’s residents for standing together in defense of their legal rights. We must continue pushing their case forward.”
“Access to your home is a basic need, and maintenance work can’t ignore that,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I continue to join the 173 Henry Street Tenants Association, AAFE, Manhattan Legal Services, and my colleagues in advocating for tenant protections and an end to unacceptable practices that keep tenants from their homes.”
“Today we sought and obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the landlord from suspending elevator services at 173 Henry Street so that Mr. Ng, who cannot use the stairs because of his medical condition, may continue to obtain life-saving medical and social services,” said Cynthia Weaver, Staff Attorney at Manhattan Legal Services. “We are hopeful that the landlord will finally provide a reasonable accommodation to allow the elevator repair to proceed. However, we are very much ready to litigate the merits of our claims.”
“For far too long, unscrupulous landlords throughout New York City have used construction as a means to harass tenants. The coalition Stand for Tenant Safety (STS) is proud to unite with the tenants of 173 Henry Street as they push back against the aggressive and illegal construction occurring in their building. The terrible conditions they face at 173 Henry Street demonstrate an urgent need for change. The City needs to address the issue of construction-as-harassment head on,” said Brandon Kielbasa of Stand for Tenant Safety (STS), a coalition of community organizations and tenant advocates.
The coalition coming together to fight for justice at 173 Henry St. demands that the owner:
- Provide heat and hot water (tenants had none recently during Lunar New Year);
- Repair holes in walls throughout the building that rats are using as their homes;
- Repair the building’s broken intercom system;
- Secure proper construction permits — issued by the appropriate City agencies;
- Limit scope of construction to what is approved by the appropriate City agencies;
- Stop after-hours or weekend construction without the proper permits and notices;
- Clean construction debris and dust at the end of each work day;
- Place notices regarding construction in conspicuous public places;
- Never disrupt essential services during any ongoing construction;
- Require on-site super to take care of garbage and maintain public areas; and
- Make accommodations for other disabled and elderly tenants including help with carrying groceries.
As a recent story in the Daily News explained, “Mr. Ng had to get dialysis, but the elevator wasn’t working — so he tried braving the stairs. He fell ‘after only one flight’ and suffered a black eye and bloody nose, among other injuries. ‘When the elevator was shut off before, I hurt myself badly going down the stairs, and it took me an hour to climb back up after my dialysis… I’m afraid that if my landlord shuts down the elevator, I won’t be able to get the treatments I need to live.”