By Arthur Z. Schwartz
Humberto Gonzalez has lived in Apartment 1D, a small studio, since 1960. Yes, 1960.
He lives peaceably and quietly in a rather bizarre building. It is a co-op/condominium with small apartments regularly being sold on the market. Recent sales of studio apartments have been as high as $500,000. It is hard from City records to determine who owns Mr. Gonzalez’s apartment, but since it is rent controlled, costing around $200 per month, someone really wants him out badly.
In mid-February, he got a Termination Notice from his landlord’s lawyer. According to the Notice, his apartment was loaded up with garbage, causing noxious odors, and attracting vermin. He was told to leave by March 31st, or he would be evicted.
None of this was true. Mr. Gonzalez reads WestView, and he asked around, got the phone number of Advocates for Justice (the public interest firm your author is associated with, which protects Village seniors) and called. We went to see his apartment and found a clean, neat space with no garbage.
But we found more. His walls hadn’t been painted in 30 years, the plaster was falling in his kitchen, the floors had holes, and the gas on his stove hadn’t worked (due to “repair work” in the cellar) for six months. As it turns out, the building has 91 violations of record at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and more at the NYC Department of Buildings.
A letter immediately went out to his landlord’s lawyer (with photographic proof) demanding that the harassment of Mr. Gonzalez stop and that his apartment be repaired. Mr. Gonzalez, however, remains scared. His February rent check was returned, and he finds the whole turn of events confusing. We will update WestView readers in April. Mr. Gonzalez will NOT be allowed to lose his apartment.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the President of Advocates for Justice, a public interest law firm.