Tenants, housing advocates and elected officials are rallying against Imperial Court building owner Michael Edelstein, accusing him of operating an illegal hotel.
Last week, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Kathryn Freed ruled that the City of New York could intervene in a case involving the owners and managers of the Imperial Court (307 W. 79th Street), who are allowing occupants to stay in the building for less than 30 straight days. She also kept the temporary restraining order on them in place.
Tenants of the building have complained that managers cater to short-term guests, who show up and leave by the busload daily.
“The Imperial Court is a single resident occupancy building for rent-regulated tenants,” stated New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal. “For years the building’s operator illegally rented out rooms, as if it were a hotel, and he has made clear in the press that he would rather see the building vacant than filled with rent-regulated tenants. I urge Justice Freed to nullify any existing reservations so these units can be used for permanent housing as soon as possible.”
The defendants had asked Freed to allow them to honor the 598 existing reservations that tourists have made between now and December 2016. The Multiple Dwelling Law makes such reservations illegal.
“Our clients are forced to live with garbage strewn about the hallways, laundry carts blocking their doors, elevators that are filled with dirty linens that are being shuttled between the transient rooms and basement laundry facilities and unsanitary and disgusting conditions in common bathrooms and kitchens,” said Rachel Hannford of the Goddard Riverside Law Project, the organization providing free legal representation for tenants. “Many of the tourists who illegally occupy the rooms neighboring our clients’ rooms host loud parties and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. The Imperial Court managers have refused to do anything to address these conditions and instead continue with their illegal scheme.”
Richard Amelius, a tenant of Imperial Court, stated his frustrations with the building he calls home.
“Living at the Imperial Court means constantly being under stress,” stated Amelius. “There is a never-ending flood of tourists coming and going at all hours, having parties and blasting music and television. These tourists disrespect the public kitchens and bathrooms, chain smoke on every floor and leave trash in the hallway, attracting roaches and mice. The elevators are monopolized by a parade of sightseers and take-out delivery people; the laundry room is overrun by a dozen maids … My neighbors have been replaced with a revolving cast of hotel guests. My landlord has harassed me, disrespected me and told me that I have no rights. Finally, I have had enough. I hope that the judge recognizes that this has to stop.”
Freed said she’ll make her decision after reviewing documents that the landlord has to produce by Aug. 3. She also wants to see the contracts for reservations that were made through the end of the year.