Students, parents and owners of a karate school, Beyond Martial Arts, gathered on Columbia Street yesterday afternoon to protest the organization’s eviction from a commercial space in the Masaryk Towers residential complex.
The city marshal posted a notice on the door at 60 Columbia St. last week, amid a long-running court battle between tenant and landlord. The two sides are due back in court at the end of this week. Meanwhile, dozens of kids are unable to participate in Beyond Martial Arts’ classes and after school programs.
The owner of the business, Phil Quinones, told us Monday that he owes back rent but that there are extenuating circumstances. Quinones said he’s been forced to pay Con Ed bills for the entire building, including Masaryk’s swimming pool, and to make other repairs that should have been the landlord’s responsibility. Mounting legal bills have prompted Beyond Martial Arts to start a crowdfunding campaign. There’s also a petition drive to show support for the small business.
Longtime Lower East Side resident Nancy Ortiz has two grandchildren enrolled in the after school programs. Beyond Martial Arts “has been a lifesaver,” she said. In a neighborhood with a dearth of quality after school activities, Ortiz explained, the school provides young kids with a structure and discipline. “They pick the children up at school, help them with their homework and just cater to a lot of the community’s needs.”
The manager of Masaryk Towers, Mitch Magidson, tells a different story. In a phone interview, he told us that Beyond Martial Arts owes the co-op money and it failed to provide services (the lease required the firm to provide free classes to Masaryk residents). As far as he’s concerned, Quinones was legally evicted. “It’s a done deal,” he said, adding that no new tenant is lined up to take the space.
Beyond Martial Arts has been at Masaryk Towers since 2013. The business was previously located on Attorney Street.
Phil Quinones addressed parents and other supporters at a Mondsy rally.
Masaryk’s board vice president Adeline Camacho and helper Marcus Liszkiewicz unload supplies for distribution.
On the 19th floor of Masaryk Towers, a six-buildng affordable-housing co-op on Columbia Street near the East River, one resident has been waiting out the storm’s aftermath alone in the dark and without insulin for her diabetes.
“I’ve never felt so helpless in my life,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Joan and said she has lived in the 1,110-unit complex since 1989. Her neighbors brought her some food, and she had water from the building’s supply for most of the week, but it cut off recently. She was unable to leave her apartment to get more medicine.
This morning, help for Joan and other home-bound residents of Masaryk Towers arrived in the form of a diverse band of volunteers and 120 military-style “meals-ready-to-eat.”
Masaryk Towers as seen from the M train, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge.
Masaryk Towers, a six-building affordable housing co-op, has endured years of financial turmoil and dissension. Now the Lower East Side complex faces another legal challenge. Earlier today we received a press release from two advocacy organizations announcing a lawsuit, on behalf of nearly 200 Masaryk residents, accusing the city of illegally approving carrying charge increases.
The lawsuit was filed in Manhattan Supreme Court against the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which oversees the Mitchell Lama cooperative. It alleges that residents received an 11% increase in carrying charges in March of 2011, followed by an 18% increase 15 months later. The press release asserted that carrying charges cannot be increased within two years of a previous hike.
Various dignitaries braved the sweltering heat this afternoon to celebrate the beginning of a long awaited renovation project. Thanks to $8 million from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the city, Masaryk Towers is about to get a major face lift.
The 1110 unit affordable housing complex on Columbia Street will be receiving facade repairs, improvements to sidewalks and parking lots, new playground equipment and new security booths. The plan also includes one particularly controversial addition to Masaryk: fencing that will prevent people from walking through the courtyard on Rivington Street.
Investigators say yesterday’s fire at Masaryk Towers was sparked by an electric space heater. The Post reports that the heater was too close to “combustible material or or near a bed.” The fire started in a 16th floor apartment at 89 Columbia Street, shortly after 11 a.m. The flames shot out the windows – and flames spread to the upper floors of the 21 story building.
Two women who lived in the apartment were treated for smoke inhalation. According to the Post, two dogs died in an 18th floor apartment. As we indicated yesterday, 10 residents were displaced by the fire. The Red Cross was helping them find temporary accommodations.
About 130 firefighters fought the blaze, which was brought under control in about an hour-and-a-half.
Six Lowa posted video on YouTube showing the flames coming out of the 16th floor window, lapping the building exterior and spreading to floors 17-19.
Here’s an update on this morning’s fire at Masaryk Towers. First of all, GammaBlog has video of the flames shooting out of the windows shortly after the blaze broke out today. Also, the Red Cross is on the scene, helping people displaced by the fire. It looks like four apartments were destroyed.
We’re just back from the three-alarm fire at Masaryk Towers. More than 100 firefighters responded to the building on Columbia Street. We’re told the blaze, which started on the 16th floor, is now out. Red Cross staff are on the scene (or soon will be) to assist any displaced families. We have not heard of any injuries as of yet. Stay tuned for updates.
A short time ago, the Daily News posted to its web site the story behind an early morning fire at Masaryk Towers, 77 Columbia Street, today. It took 60 firefighters about 40 minutes to extinguish the flames. 11 people suffered minor injuries. One 97-year old woman, Wei Chee, became trapped in her apartment.
Chee’s neighbor, Wanda Camacho, helped her escape the fire. This afternoon, the elderly woman is hospitalized at New York Hospital-Weill Cornell.
Neighborhood activists gathered at Masaryk Towers (43-55 Columbia Street) with State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Friday on to celebrate a hard fought victory. After years of advocacy and protests, the crumbling sidewalk in front of the private cooperative has finally been repaired. In a statement, Silver said:
The Villager is reporting the tenants of Masaryk Towers have voted to gate off a section of Rivington Street used by a lot of people to walk between Pitt and Columbia Streets. The large cooperative just to the north of the Williamsburg Bridge owns the walkway. Right now, the path serves as a convenient link for many residents, especially elderly tenants of the Baruch and Gompers public housing developments.
What does it take to fix a sidewalk in New York City? Quite a lot, it seems. For the past several years, local residents have been complaining about large holes in the crumbling sidewalk on Columbia Street, in front of Masaryk Towers. The privately-owned affordable housing complex received $8 million in government money (from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.) to fix the problem and make other exterior improvements to the buildings. Residents were promised the work would be done last year. But still, no repairs are underway.