Desperate landlord gets de Blasio’s sympathy, not much else

Mayor asks financially strapped owner to wait a bit longer before commercial tenants can return

Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty)
Mayor Bill de Blasio (Getty)

A landlord at the end of his rope managed to bring his tale of woe directly to Bill de Blasio this week, but the mayor offered little besides pity in response.

The Queens property owner’s missive was delivered by 1010 WINS reporter Juliet Papa during the mayor’s daily media briefing Tuesday, three months into the citywide shutdown of non-essential businesses.

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“I’m a commercial landlord and three of my largest tenants are day care centers. They’ve been closed for three months and have been given no indication of when they’ll be allowed to open. They have no income, can’t pay rent and have burned through their security deposits,” the message began.

“None of my expenses — mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance — have been paused, and I cannot give my tenants any more rent breaks,” the landlord, Tim O’Sullivan, continued. “I’ve been collecting about 10 to 20 percent of my rent because I don’t have any money left to pay bills.”

Papa, a mainstay of city radio, then asked, “So, Mr. Mayor, the question is, other than waiting for federal stimulus money, what are you doing for people like this listener?”

De Blasio’s answer, delivered with more diplomacy than empathy, was, essentially: I’m sorry, but your tenants cannot reopen — even when phase two begins.

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Phase one of the city’s reopening, which started June 8, excluded many businesses, and limitations will continue in the second phase, which is underway in every part of the state except the five boroughs. The mayor has suggested it will start in July, but pressure is building for a June 22 launch, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that the city is on track for that.

Not for day care, though. That is phase four.

“As we go into phase two … a lot of people will be going back to work and will need child care and that’s going to be even more true in the fall,” de Blasio said. “So, we have to figure out how to get to the point where day care centers can get up running and to help them do so. I don’t have that answer for you perfectly today. I just don’t. But as we’ve been working through the pieces, this one’s very much on our mind.”

The concern of the mayor and Cuomo, who determines reopening rules, is that a second wave of Covid-19 could emerge. De Blasio said the Black Lives Matter protests might give rise to one, so city officials are monitoring infection data before ramping up reopening. Because of the incubation period, spread of the virus can take about two weeks to show up in increased hospitalizations.

“I’ve tried to keep expectations low and say, think about beginning of July, just so people are not disappointed, and that presumes that the data keeps coming back the right way,” de Blasio said of the phase two start. “We will be ready for next week, if the indicators and the discussions with the state tell us that we’re ready to go next week.”

De Blasio does appear to appreciate the economic harm of the shutdown, but also the damage to businesses that another spike in infections could cause.

“People need child care,” he said. “The folks who work in child care need their jobs back. Yes, the landlords of those buildings need to get their rent. We have to move on all these fronts, but we don’t have that plan today, but we will have it very shortly.”