Murder Victim’s Mom Files Lawsuit, Charging Lax Security at Smith Houses

File photo.

File photo.

The New York Post reported over the weekend that the mother of a teen killed at the Alfred E. Smith Houses last year has filed a lawsuit against the city.

On Sept. 26, 2015, 19-year-old Nathaniel Szeto was fatally shot in the lobby of a building at the Smith Houses, near Catherine Street and South Street. A couple of months later, cops arrested 15-year-old Johnny Molina of Sparrowbush, New York. He was charged as a juvenile with murder. Another suspect, 19-year-old Alexandros Lorentzos, was arrested just last month and charged with murder and robbery.

A lawsuit filed in state supreme court by Phanessia Liao, Szeto’s mother, argues that shoddy security at the public housing complex was partially to blame for her son’s murder. The suit cites pre-existing “broken, dangerous, hazardous and defective” conditions in the building, including faulty locks. The inadequate security, “allowed trespassers, other unlawful persons, and/or persons intent on committing crimes and/or violence” access to Szeto’s home, the lawsuit alleges. Liao is seeking unspecified damages. City officials declined to comment.

Szeto worked as an assistant in a Lower Manhattan legal office.


19-Year-Old Man Fatally Shot at the Smith Houses (Updated)

$450,000 in New Security Cameras Coming to Smith Houses

Smith Houses Leader Aixa Torres Honored in Albany

Cops Release Photos of Suspects Wanted in Murder Near Smith Houses

31-Year Old Father of Four Murdered Near Smith Houses Last Night

Followup: Fatal Shooting at Alfred E. Smith Houses

We have a few more details concerning the overnight shooting at the Smith Houses that left a 30-year-old man dead.

30-Year Old Man Shot and Killed at Smith Houses Overnight

A man was fatally wounded while walking through a courtyard at the Alfred E. Smith Houses early this morning.

My LES: Jonathan Gardenhire

For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with Jonathan Gardenhire, a student who serves as the vice president of the Smith Houses Residents Association.

NYCHA Plans Released: 50-Story Towers Envisioned at Smith Houses

nycha plan:smith houses

In spite of strong objections from residents, the New York City Housing Authority is undeterred in its quest to lease public housing property for private development.   The agency yesterday posted on its website “pre-request for proposal” documents and scheduled another round of “engagement meetings” with impacted communities. The revenue-generating proposal would develop sites at five Lower East Side projects.  The real “request for proposals” (RFP) is expected to be released next month.

The documents released show that one site, at the Smith Houses on South Street, would accommodate two 500-foot buildings (that’s 50 stories).  We’ll have more on the plans later. In the meantime, you can have a look for yourself.  Click through for a look at the scheduled meetings on the LES.

Judge Orders Immediate Repairs at Smith Houses

Residents of the Smith Houses and community activists held a news conference last month.

Residents of the Smith Houses and community activists held a news conference last month.

Last month, residents of the Alfred E. Smith Houses announced they were suing the New York City Housing Authority for failing to make repairs at the 12-building complex alongside the East River.  Last week, a housing court judge rejected NYCHA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ordered the agency to begin clearing maintenance requests immediately.  NYCHA officials said they would get started this week.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 300 tenants by lawyers from the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.  Those attorneys say the ruling could be “precedent-setting,” with potential implications for other public housing developments across the city.   The Daily News has more details here.


Tenants at Smith Houses Allege Retaliation by NYCHA; Lawsuit Filed (Updated 5:44 p.m.)

smith houses lawsuit newser

A news conference was held this morning near Robert Wagner Place and Pearl Street.

For the past three years, monthly gas outages have been a way of life at the Alfred E. Smith Houses, a 12-building complex along the East River.   Water damage from a leaky roof has made life miserable for residents of the large public housing complex.  Aixa Torres, Smith’s tenant president, was heartened several months ago when the New York City Housing Authority finally signaled it would begin making desperately needed repairs.  But then something changed, Torres said, and the projects were put on terminal hold.  That “something,” she asserts, was the tenant association’s decision to oppose NYCHA’s plan to build luxury housing on a parking lot and athletic field at Smith.  This morning, tenants, their attorneys and community activists held a news conference to discuss a lawsuit they have filed against the housing authority demanding that repairs be made without delay.

Smith Tenant Association Boycotting Tonight’s NYCHA Meeting

NYCHA map shows development sites at the Smith Houses.

NYCHA map shows development sites at the Smith Houses.

In the past 24 hours, the New York City Housing Authority finally posted details on its web site concerning a plan to lease some of its property for private development.  Tonight, officials will be briefing residents of the Smith Houses about the plan but many tenants will not be participating.

This is because they’re boycotting the meeting, set to take place at P.S. 126 (80 Catherine Street), at 6:30 p.m.  Why?   A press release we received from BerlinRosen Public Relations states: “The Tenants’ Association Exec. Committee asked NYCHA to reschedule the meeting in order to give residents at least a 10-day notice and opportunity to review the proposals, but NYCHA is deciding to go ahead anyway. The Authority is making it seem as though their plan is a done-deal and residents just have to put up with it.”   The Urban Justice Center is advocating on behalf of the public housing tenants, many of whom have obtained legal representation.

NYCHA’s Margarita Lopez: Luxury Housing Plan is Not a Done Deal

Residents of the Smith Houses packed a gymnasium on Madison Street last night for a tense “emergency tenant meeting” to discuss the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease some of its property for luxury development.  They were greeted by NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez, who struggled to tamp down what she called “rumors” concerning the proposal.

A week ago, the Daily News reported that the cash-strapped agency would release an RFP (request for proposals) next month seeking developers for parking lots, playgrounds and other spaces at eight of its developments, five of them on the Lower East Side.  The new construction, the News reported, would consist of 80% market rate housing and 20% affordable housing.  Around $50 million in expected annual revenues would be plowed back into the public housing developments, which require billions in repairs and upgrades.  On the LES, Smith, as well as the La Guardia Houses, the Baruch Houses, Meltzer (senior housing) and Campos Plaza (on East 12th Street) would be impacted.  Many of the details in the newspaper report matched up with very general briefings given to members of the City Council and tenant leaders in the past month.

Holiday Redux: Tenants at Smith Houses Are Without Gas Service Once Again

Photo via Alfred E. Smith Houses Facebook page.

It’s a holiday tradition the residents of the Alfred E. Smith Houses could definitely do without.   Once again people who live in the public housing complex near the Brooklyn Bridge are having to made do without gas service.  It’s at least the fifth substantial outage in the past three years.  The problems have a way of occurring during the holidays, when the weather turns cold and people are cooking more family meals than normal.

This time, we’re told 32 apartments at 182 South Street are impacted.  The gas has been out most of this month.  Service is not expected to be restored until a week from Thursday or Friday.  As in the past, NYCHA has handed out hot plates so tenants can at least use their kitchens.