The Real Deal New York

Bad habit: Nuns booting immigrant tenants in Hell’s Kitchen

Dispute broke out when the sisters raised the rent by $150
By Adam Pincus | December 29, 2014 01:44PM

More than two dozen immigrant women who have resided for years in a five-story single-room occupancy building in Hell’s Kitchen have just over a year to find a new home, an attorney for the residents said. And the landlord who’s giving them the boot? The Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

The Connecticut order of nuns, which owns the St. Joseph Immigrant Home at 425 West 44th Street, between Ninth and 10th avenues, is locked in a battle with a group of the building’s residents who balked at a $150 rent increase imposed earlier this year by the sisters. To date, the nuns have filed 27 lawsuits in Housing Court to remove the women.

The residents are not protected by rent-stabilization regulations which cover most SRO buildings, because of an exemption for religious institutions using the building for a charitable purpose.

The landlord is offering to give the women, who have been living in the building for years, until January 2016 to move, said Clint Guthrie, an attorney with the Goddard Riverside SRO Law Project, which is representing nine of the 27 tenants. The others are represented by MFY Legal Services and Housing Conservation Coordinators. Other tenants in the building are new or have agreed to pay the higher rent.

“Our goal as an organization is that we see none of the women become homeless,” Guthrie said. The owners, “are not in any way offering that any of the tenants can stay long term. At some earlier point we thought that might be possible if they paid all or part of the rent increase.”

The building owner wants to raise rents in order to pay down $400,000 in loans and cover a $100,000 annual deficit, as well as return the building to an earlier mission, which is to give temporary housing to immigrant women, said Andrew Wagner, an associate with the law firm Rosen Livingston & Cholst. He is representing the landlord. The nuns did not respond to a request for comment.

“These financial obligations can only be satisfied from the rents it receives from its tenants. Even with the rent increases, which more than half of the residents are paying, it will take years for my client to erase this deficit,” Wagner said in an email to The Real Deal.

Wagner would not address the plan to give the tenants until January 2016 to vacate, saying he could not comment on pending settlement negotiations.

The website for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s shows the building has 75 units, but attorneys for the tenants said there are several more.

Community Board 4 has been closely involved with the negotiations since the nuns pressed the tenants for a rent hike earlier this year.


  • JEng

    The same thing happened to the church behind Hester Gardens where their good deed was retaliated against by the beneficiaries. In Chinese, it’s called eating the rice as a guest and then smashing the rice bowl. Also that saying about the guests claiming the landlord’s property also applies – that Chinese saying should be the title on all articles about turning over greedy slumlord buildings to the deserving tenants or their tenant advocates – because that IS NYC. We’re worse than San Francisco.

    Hakka (guest) Ba (dominate) Day-Zhoo (owner)

    I’m pretty sure the nuns won’t be showing their financial records to the powers that be but we are willing to do so privately otherwise we can post everything on youtube to protect against being misreported. There is no way Albany should be overcharging rent regulated owners while continuing to refuse to allow rent increases based on UNINFLATED operating expenses and the FACT that rent is not income based and succession rights are not need-based. What about the landlords? Believe it or not, we’re actually human beings.

  • JEng

    Is race an issue? Because I’ve noticed that “immigrant” and “minority” are sacred cows these days. They’re not immigrant women tenants from Ireland, are they?

    If you didn’t do anything wrong, then you should be able to speak the truth and make corrections regardless of the color or the political power of the culprits. We all need to mine our inner Tony Avellas and just do things because they are the right thing to do and nevermind who you piss off and how your future six figure salary as a cog in the system would be jeopardized. He went after commercial kitchens in private homes and now the traffic issue with the big construction in Flushing. In Manhattan, that would be a propoor, antislumlord, racism issue. That propoor, racism, racism, one percenter agit prop got us here today – TWO dead cops and one of them Chinese with a family totally clueless as to how this happened.

    • Backwash

      WTF are you talking about shutup

      • JEng

        Do you know the history of Catholic school and nuns? My mother thinks they’re the epitome of serenity and remoteness like the nuns from Sound of Music because of the quiet peaceful appearance of the nuns in Hong Kong but she ended up not following up because her dad asked if she thought her knees could take all that kneeling and that if she was going to do anything, she had to do it right.

        I’m not religious and I’m won’t be buying a copy of Heaven Help Us but the thrill of my grade school days was watching Sister Pacifica smack bad boys in front of the rest of us for messing around in the Boy’s Lavatory and banning them from using the facilities for the rest of their lives.

        Think the old drunk in Team America: World Police who gives the Actor a heads up. The nuns I admire weren’t wusses and had no problem making corrections – what’s holding them back now – is it the new political correctness? because that’s not making the world a better place i.e. in the desired image so what are you showing up to work for? why be a nun at all if you can’t turn people in your direction as a result of your self abnegation?

        Every hour of legal fees is money not helping an immigrant female in need, correct? (I’m not throwing shade at their legal representation – but the tenants are costing the nuns unnecessarily and that’s not forgivable.)

  • WannaBeLandlord

    This headline is trash, in fact as a paying subscriber I find it borderline anti-Semitic. Bad habit: Nuns booting immigrant tenants in Hell’s Kitchen. Those evil Christian Landlords, err Nuns

  • Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished

    Let no good deed go unpunished. Maybe Goddard Riverside and MFY, with all the money they get from government funding, can help pay off the debt that the good nuns have had to bear for years, helping the poor.

    • JEng

      What are their salaries? Is it six figures? I think Chinatown BID is six figures. :(

  • Bill the Butcher

    What, we should feel sorry for these immigrants who have learned to milk the system for years and take advantage of the nuns and the church? So for the next year they will most likely pay no rent as they probably had for the past how many years? Pincus, you are a Pinko!