This is not what Gov. Andrew Cuomo had in mind.
Manhattan developer Marco Ricotta and his broker girlfriend Jodine Russo have been taking advantage of Cuomo’s eviction moratorium by refusing to leave a Westhampton Beach house they were due to vacate May 3, the New York Post reported.
The 76-year-old Ricotta and Russo, whose LinkedIn page says she has been a real estate broker for the past 12 years, have not paid the $3,000 rent since April, according to the irate owner of the four-bedroom home, Elyse Zaccaro.
Zaccaro, 53, and her husband planned to spend the summer in the East End home with her teenage son and in-laws, but their legal action against the alleged squatters was held up by the court system’s Covid shutdown and Cuomo’s executive order.
Pressured by tenant advocates, Cuomo banned evictions temporarily and later extended the action, as did the state legislature. But the lawmakers made no exception for people like Ricotta and Russo, who have somewhere else to go: their two-bedroom apartment at 65 West 55th Street in Manhattan, according to business records.
Cuomo did say repeatedly that the rent is still due, but that leaves it to landlords to obtain a judgment in court and then collect on it. A house like Zaccaro’s might fetch $12,000 a month during summer.
“I don’t have to leave because the governor said so,” Ricotta allegedly told a local official, the Post reported.
When the tabloid called Ricotta for his side of the story, he hung up on the newspaper. Russo did not return a message. But in a burst of creativity, the owner of the since-deleted Twitter account @jodinerusso wrote, “think of me like a box of chocolates (you never know what you are gonna get).” If not original, it proved to be accurate, judging from the alleged four-month overstay in Westhampton Beach.
Russo, for her part, does not portray herself as a grifter in her LinkedIn bio. “I am very well organized very much a team player and love helping others,” she wrote. “My goal is to work with people on all levels and give them the education and structure that I have learned over my past experience.”
Aside from allegedly living rent-free in other people’s beach homes, that experience includes being the CEO and owner of a computer supply company in Beverly Hills from 1993 to 2004, her grammatically challenged resume says. Her CEO duties included “overviewing daily financial status,” “obtaining various suppliers for my company” and “making sure that I get the quality of computer supplies for my clients.”
From 1996 to 2003 she was simultaneously CEO and owner of Russo Real Estate, where she engaged in “renting and leasing apartments, condos, etc.,” her LinkedIn page continues.
If the 1,800-square-foot home on Sunset Avenue has been free housing for Ricotta and Russo for four months, the episode could come with a cost: Publicity from the Post story might make it challenging for them to rent in the future and could make for some awkward conversations on the Hamptons social circuit, should they be welcomed back to it.
“The eviction moratorium is very well intended for those in need, but it’s being misapplied with no due recourse,” Zaccaro told the Post. [NYP] — Erik Engquist