East Harlem tenants to protest after British landlord folds, leaving buildings in disarray

December 22, 2009 10:04AM

A group of tenants are planning to protest today at the Bank of New York Mellon, which holds the mortgage on what they say are poorly maintained East Harlem apartment buildings. The tenants’ landlord, British investment firm Dawnay Day, purchased 47 rental buildings in the neighborhood for $225 million in 2007, at the height of the market, intending to slowly replace low-income residents with affluent ones who would be charged higher rents as the area gradually gentrified. The recession hit Dawnay Day hard — some analysts say the firm was one of the largest real estate insolvencies of 2008 — and those East Harlem properties, containing 1,100 apartments, are now facing foreclosure. Low-income tenants there say that after Dawnay Day tried to force them out, the firm’s failure has left them even worse off: their apartments are neglected and have rats and gaping holes in their ceilings and walls. Dawnay Day had hired Michael Kessner, the son of the buildings’ former owner, Steven Kessner — one of the Village Voice’s 10 worst city landlords in 2006 — to manage the properties before the company folded, and now his family may end up the landlord there once again. “At the right price,” Michael Kessner said, he would bid on the foreclosed buildings. [NYT]

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