Tenants at 143 Ludlow claim landlord driving them out with unsafe conditions

TRD New York /
Mar.March 06, 2013 03:00 PM

UPDATED, 4:06 p.m., Mar. 6: Residents of 143 Ludlow Street have sued their landlord, Samy Mahfar of SMA Equities, alleging that the developer tried to drive them out of the building with dangerous and inconvenient conditions. The eight rent-stabilized tenants who live in the Lower East Side property allege that Mahfar’s goal is to bring in market-rate residents.

The tenants allegedly have suffered ceiling collapses, three construction-related fires, multiple incidents of flooding, exposed electrical wiring, as well as intermittent water, heat and electricity. Their suit, filed in Housing Court, aims to put the building in control of a court-appointed administrator.

Mahfar told The Real Deal that the property is undergoing upgrades — including new stairs, a new roof, a new garbage chute and a revamped electrical system — but acknowledged that it was in rough shape when he purchased it this past summer. “We treat the tenants like…family lives there,” he said, inviting anyone to take a look.

The building is facing 145 housing code violations, according to the suit.

Mahfar said he did not believe they were violations, but rather complaints, and noted that he inherited more than 100 of them from the previous owner. He has “cured 95 percent of the 145,” he said, adding that he needs access to tenants’ apartments to make some repairs, such as repainting ceiling cracks.

He declined to comment on the tenants’ allegation that he brought a relocation expert to the building.

However, Brandon Kielbasa, lead organizer at the Cooper Square Committee, a tenants’ rights organization that is representing the tenants along with the Urban Justice Center, disputed this account. “There’s no issue with access,” he told The Real Deal, adding that tenants are begging Mahfar to come in to make repairs.

Harvey Epstein, associate director of the Urban Justice Center, told The Real Deal that the building has ongoing problems and violations in the building. “There are serious conditions in the building that they’re not rectifying,” he said. —Zachary Kussin

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