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East Village Tenants Say New Landlord Is Pushing Them Out

Long-time residents say they’re being hit with huge rent increases that have unsettled their lives and forced some of them to leave the building.

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A “good cause”

Stephon Johnson/THE CITY

Tenants on East 11th and 12th streets say that a new owner of their buildings, which house a mix of rent-regulated and market-rate units, has been trying to push them out of their long-time homes.

The properties — at 310 E. 12th St. and 305 E. 11th St. just east of Second Ave. and connected by an 11,000 square-foot courtyard — were purchased last August for $58 million by Meadow Partners, a “private real estate investment firm based in New York City and London” that “specializes in middle-market transactions… across the risk spectrum” according to its website. 

Some tenants in unregulated units told THE CITY that they’ve been hit with rent increases of 25% since the sale.

If New York State were to pass a “Good Cause” eviction bill, which some lawmakers are pushing to include in the budget package due this Friday,  double-digit hikes like these would be off the table as rent increases would cap out at 3% or 1.5 times the rate of inflation, whichever is higher.

Meadow Partners, which since its inception claims to have purchased more than $8.2 billion in real estate assets globally. bought the properties from the Chissick family, which had owned them since 1968, with debt financing from an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management. 

Meadow Partners said in a release last summer that its purchase of the two buildings was its ninth investment in the East Village, covering 430 apartments altogether. That includes 89 apartments in the two newly purchased buildings, with about one-third of those apartments rent-stabilized. 

About a dozen apartments in the two buildings are presently unoccupied, residents there told THE CITY. They say that’s a sign the new owners are planning to combine apartments, one of the few ways a landlord can deregulate what had been rent-stabilized homes or otherwise make changes that would bring in more money than they can afford to pay. 

The management companies Meadow Partners works with at the East Village buildings, 60 Guilders and 620 MGMT, are both represented by Christina Smyth. The firm has sent vacate notices to at least 10 market-rate tenants in the buildings on behalf of 60 Guilders and 620 MGMT. 

Smyth was recently appointed by Mayor Eric Adams to the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) as a landlord representative. 

Attempts to contact Smyth through her firm and through the RGB, Meadow Partners, and 60 Guilders were unsuccessful. 

Asked about its relationship with Meadow Partners, a spokesperson for 620 MGMT who would not provide their name said that the company had “no comment.” Meadow Partners did not respond to questions from THE CITY. 

‘The Stress’

On Sunday, over two dozen tenants rallied in front of 310 E. 12th Street to protest Meadow Partners, 60 Guilders, and 620 MGMT. Residents told THE CITY about how they and their neighbors are currently fighting against the rent hikes and proposed shorter leases, with some of them giving up and finding new places to live. 

“I lived at 310 E. 12th Street for 18 years and raised two now-high-school-aged sons in the building,” tenant Jennifer Laing told THE CITY in a text. “This past summer, our renewal lease was offered for one year only at a 37% increase and ultimately forced us from our home.”

The rally on Sunday

Stephon Johnson/THE CITY

A 48-year-old tenant, who did not want his name to be printed, told THE CITY about the tragic fate of his neighbor, art critic Charlie Finch, who the tenant took care of while Finch was battling cancer. Finch lived in a rent-controlled apartment and, the tenant recalled, feared for his future after Meadow Partners’ purchased the building.

“He was so distraught over it,” the tenant said, sharing text messages from Finch laying out his fears. “He would talk to me about it all the time. It really upset him. He was really distraught. He would text me about it. He would say, ‘They’re gonna throw you out. They’re gonna throw me out. You’re not going to be here to take care of me anymore.’” 

On August 24 of last year, Finch jumped out of the window of his fifth-floor apartment. He was 69. The GoldinFinch Tenants Association, which tenants founded shortly after the building sale in August and Finch’s death, was named after him and the late literary agent and housing activist Frances Goldin, who lived at 305 E. 11th Street for decades and who died in 2020 at the age of 95.

Maria Malloy, 22, has lived at 310 E. 12th Street her entire life. Before she was born, her mother had lived in the building for over 40 years, she said. Malloy has nothing but good memories of the close, tight-knit community of her childhood, with the nearby Italian red-sauce restaurant John’s of 12th Street playing an important role.

“My first babysitters were all tenants of this building,” said Malloy. “My first jobs were babysitting the younger kids here. Taking care of cats. Sharing hand-me-downs and playing in the garden together as children. Having John’s restaurant give us little ice cream through the back window. To see this community be ripped apart in such an evil and greedy way is devastating.”

Malloy recalled that when she was in high school, and her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, the neighbors rallied around her and her younger sister, bringing them dinner while her mother was getting chemotherapy. Her mother was still getting chemo when Malloy went away to college, and Malloy said it was a comfort to know people were there to care for her. For a while, cancer seemed to be receding. Now, it’s back and, Malloy said, much worse.

“I’m not a medical professional, but I cannot help but think the stress of not knowing what’s going to happen with the home you’ve known your entire adult life has something to do with it,” Malloy said. “The stress of not having clear communication from the owners of the building on whether your lease is going to be renewed.” 

But 60 Guilders and 620 MGMT have been clear, tenants say, in encouraging rent-stabilized tenants to leave the two buildings. Josh Weiss, 77, showed THE CITY a letter sent to him by management about a “possible relocation” or “buyout” and offering to potentially cover some of his relocation or attorney fees should he do so.

At the rally on Sunday, tenants were joined by New York State Senator Brian Kavanagh, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, and a representative from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ office in calling for Albany to pass “Good Cause” legislation, which was a focus of the rally even as residents were focused on keeping their homes.

“They also have absolutely no regard for people who have lived here for years and been good tenants who pay their rent on time,” said Elise Levy, who’s lived in 310 E. 12th Street with her husband Jon for 28 years in her speech to those in attendance.  “People who make this neighborhood strong.”

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