Tenants Protest Icon Realty Tactics in East Village Buildings
As we reported earlier, controversial landlord Steve Croman was arrested this morning and, if convicted, faces up to 25 years in prison on fraud, larceny and other charges. Local activists took aim at another property owner during a protest rally today on East 9th Street.
Backed up by local elected officials and the Cooper Square Committee, residents of 445 East 9th and 57 2nd Avenue vowed to take their landlord, Icon Realty Management, to court if their demands are not met.
Icon bought the 9th Street building in 2014 for $10 million and soon after began a gut renovation project. Cooper Square Committee calls this a case of “construction-as-harassment,’ a not-very-subtle way of displacing rent stabilized tenants. They want Icon to agree to a lead paint mitigation plan, safe construction practices, unobstructed building entryways and a general “respect for rent stabilized tenants’ rights.” The Urban Justice Center and Manhattan Legal Services have agreed to represent the residents in court if necessary.
At the rally in front of 445 East 9th St., longtime resident Ben Coopersmith said his family will soon have gone almost a whole year without cooking gas. He noted that all of the ground floor commercial spaces have remained empty, after the owner imposed “gouging rent hikes.”
State Sen. Brad Hoylman referenced Croman’s arrest, saying, “Icon has to shape up or we’re going to see you in (civil) court… (If Croman’s arrest) is not a warning to Icon, I don’t know what is.” Hoylman also said tenants, elected officials and advocacy organizations are united. “When you come after one of us, you come after all of us,” he warned. City Council member Rosie Mendez said there was a meeting last year with Icon to work out the problems in the buildings. Nothing happened, said Mendez, adding, “I am here to stand with the residents of my district.” She also passed out copies of new city legislation that requires landlords to provide 72 hours notice when a service disruption is going to occur.
Chris Coffey, a spokesman for Icon Realty, attended today’s event and he was in contact with the elected officials who were there (Coffey is a former Bloomberg administration official). Later, he provided us with the following statement:
Icon asked the Cooper Square Committee for a meeting in November of 2015. At that meeting, CPC presented a list of action items and requests. Icon completed over 90% of the requests and has worked diligently over the last months to make our service even better. Despite not having heard back our many emails and phone calls to CPC in the last 8 weeks, Icon is committed to improving service to every one of our residents, which is why we are so proud that the number of inquiries has plummeted over the last 6 months. There is always more we can do, and we will work every week towards doing just that.
What about those three retail spaces in the 9th Street building? According to Icon’s website, the 900 square foot storefront is available for $16,500/month.
UPDATE 6:39 p.m. Brandon Kielbasa, Cooper Square’s director of policy and organizing, tells us tonight that repairs are still needed throughout the buildings. He added:
The general demands that tenants made in the November 2015 meeting were not honored (construction issues were one of the big items on the list and they continue to be done in a way that’s worrisome in the buildings). The biggest issues the tenants still face now are related to the execution of construction. There are very serious issues with the way they’re doing the work in these buildings.
Kielbasa also said that Icon managers should be speaking directly with tenants and coordinating with their own work crews.