We are two tenant associations who joined together to defend ourselves against a corporate real estate investment hydra that seeks to expel us from our homes in order to maximize their profits.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tirade

Today was a day of a lot of noise in 118. Not news to anyone who reads our blog, however today the noise took on a new form. It was the English speaking overseer yelling at the Spanish speaking workers all day. He was saying "What the fuck is wrong with you asshole? Put it over here! Over HERE!! Puta! fuckin bitch. Fuckin Faggot! Fuckin Maricon, you're a fuckin maricon, What the fuck am I payin you for?, Prick!,  Fuckin Cocksucker!" These phrases all day long. All day long in various combinations. Absolutely relentless! I really did think there was going to be a physical confrontation. I thought that physical confrontation was gonna come directly from the overseer. The workers that speak only Spanish, are clearly undocumented. Not to fear, I'm not gonna get all Newt Gingrich on everyone. What I want to get at is this. These workers, aside from being abused and paid next to nothing were mostly teenage boys. The overseer was treating teenage boys in this manner today here at 118 East 4th St. There have been 2 teenage boys working on the roof of this building the past 2 days, completely unsupervised. If one of them gets injured or falls off the roof, well, I don't know. What I do know as a fact is this, if one them gets injured the overseer will just chuck em, and get another to fill the vacancy. 

Predator in the Hall

This guy got into the building today and was lurking about in the halls for a couple of hours. He was on my floor knocking on doors. A loud aggressive knock with something metal in his had. He knocked the way the police do, but he was clearly no cop. No one answered their doors if they were home. He didn't knock on my door. He stayed on my floor for about 45 minutes taking pictures of each rent stabilized apartment door with his iPhone. Not just one picture, but 8 or 9 pictures of each of those doors. He took a lot of notes regarding the pix he was taking. He was big too. About 6 foot 4 and overly heavy. A cheap dark topcoat with a red sweat shirt underneath.  Not real friendly looking. I was not able to make out what his deal was. Since Ben Shaoul and Fortune East have taken our buildings, there have been a  lot of these menacing suspect characters wandering the halls of 118 and 120 East 4th Street.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rent History

718-739-6400  NYC's Division of Housing and Community Renewal

If you have not called this number. please do so ASAP. That would be a great help to us. We need you to get the rent history to your apartment. It is very easy. Its free. No questions asked. Only the renter of the apartment can get their rent history. Some of you have done this. It is a great help to us to be able to find out if things have been done legally or illegally in terms of rents in our buildings. If you telephone the above number, you just say you want the rent history of your apartment. Rent history goes back to 1984. Get the entire history. The results will be mailed to you, and you will have it within two days. Ask any new tenants, and any tenants who will be leaving (especially them) for if anything illegal occurred, they will receive arrears in rent, even after moving. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ain't Nothing Going On But The Rent

Magnum Mgmt and Fortune East LLC have been playing funny games with our rent checks. We were tipped off to this shady strategy by Cooper Square Committee. The first month that Fortune owned our buildings and we were to pay our first rent to them, there was no invoice. No address to send a check to. When rent invoices did arrive the following month they were carelessly dropped on our doorsteps in unsealed envelops. We have learned to expect no concern or respect from Ben Shaoul and Fortune East LLC. Now this is their nasty little trick. They wait 6 to 8 weeks to deposit a rent check due on say October 1st. The November rent invoice arrives saying you owe 2 moths rent. They try to trip you up. We only have a PO Box as an address. Fortune East has kept the address of their office a secret. It seems like they want to make it a bit difficult to actually pay the rent. Easier to fuck you up and build a phony case against you. They have been using this strategy on all the rent stabilized tenants. This happened to me and I was caught off guard. I put a stop payment on the check. $27! I learned through our Tenant Assoc to set up online payments to a PO Box at the bank. Fortune gets paid. The money comes out of my account. There is a tracking number. If they wait 8 weeks or longer to deposit the check, the bank considers them paid. If they lose the check? Not my problem. The bank considers Fortune paid. I have not had any trouble since I started online payment. It especially burns us up at OE4 that Ben Shaoul and Fortune East are actively, and aggressively employing this shady tactic against the senior citizens in our buildings.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Eastern Empire (East Village) of Ben Shaoul/Magnum Management/Westbrook Partners/
Meadow Partners/PVE Associates/Fortune East LLC

Pictured at left: 35 apartment buildings in the East Village owned and managed by Ben Shaoul and his many corporate disguises partners.

Not shown: 2 in Chinatown, 20 elsewhere throughout the city, and 2 luxury developments in Chelsea.

Why is a negligent landlord and flawed developer who for years has been flagrantly violating city building codes and ethics still conducting business in every corner of New York City?

Click Map and Violations page for more details.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blood & Dust, Dust & Blood

I've talked to a few tenants and we've all been having a lot of bloody noses lately. Some more than others. The kind you get when the heat goes on and the air in the apartment gets a bit dry, but then you adjust. But I haven't been able to adjust to it this season, and I think its the chunky white dust, and the powder like dark grey dust. Then there is the dark brown stuff that just looks like top soil rinsed in pesticides. I think this dust is getting into all of us, penetrating our bodily defenses, and affecting our health in a very negative way. 

I definitely feel the junk in my chest, in my lungs. I know of someone that got ill and had to leave for a few weeks and live with a relative in Brooklyn to recover. I am not at liberty to reveal more on the situation as I write this post

The next photo shows two days of dust and rubble. Rubble is the more appropriate word on certain days. On the left is the chunky white dust/ rubble. I cleaned it up, and the following day the dark top soil like debris drenched in pesticides invaded the apartment. I was able to get them to remove the dangling electrical wires in the meantime.

I know for certain the heat is not the culprit for the bleeding noses around here. My nose bled quite a few times the past two days, and there has been no heat in the building for the past two days. I've been freezing my keester off with a bloody nose for two days in a row.

Ben Shaoul Wants The Keys To Our Apartments

Here is a new communique from Ben Shaoul and Fortune East

This just in. Rolled up and stuck between the door knob and the door frame. I noticed it was only put on the doors of apartments that are rent stabilized, not on the door of the market rate apartments. Can you say harassment? Notice that the date is Valentine's Day. There is as usual, no Mgmt name, and no signature. I think I know why there is never a name on these letters. The man who "manages" our buildings is named Josh. He works for Magnum and PVE Associates. He presents himself as Josh Evans to some, or as Josh Greene to others in the same building. His real name is Josh Slepian. I guess with a name like Slepian you gotta do something. The name Slepian is recorded online regarding his association with Ben Shaoul and Magnum Real Estate Group. Check out this from the Villager....

Nearly all of us at 120 and 118 East 4th Street have had an unannounced, unwanted encounter with Josh Evans/ Greene/ Slepian. In one case he followed a tenant of 118 down the length of East 4th street to Second Ave grilling that tenant for information. Harassment?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Roof of 118

This was the condition of the roof for quite some time. Fortune East and Ben Shaoul are building a new stair up to the roof from an apartment on the top floor of 118 East 4th St. The permit says they can add a bulk head. They have since added a window to the bulk head. They seem to be attempting to make some kind of private garden terrace on the roof without making any structural changes to strengthen the roof, as they have at 120. The legality of the roof terrace is in question, and they have no permit for it. The bulk head is wrapped in plastic in these photos. The metal beams that form its shape were dumped on the roof at 630 am one morning in November from a crane. Actually, cranes are not allowed according to the permits, so they called it a "Boom" instead. Something went awry and all the beams feel upon the roof with a loud crash. The force of the crash caused plaster to fall from ceilings and new cracks to open up in the walls. There was no one of the roof at the time to receive and help direct this crane, I mean, Boom shipment. 

This is the truck with the crane that dumped its shipment on the roof without  any supervision making a hasty escape. I watched them and they seemed surprised and disturbed by the accident on the roof. 
This is some of the garbage left on the roof over the weekends.

'[WEDNESDAY] Membership Meeting & Potluck'

'[WEDNESDAY] Membership Meeting & Potluck'

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day On East 4th Street

Taking a needed break from the ongoing construction, demolition, chunky white dust, powder fine grey dust, the noise and toxic fumes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

TA Meeting

This evening we had a TA meeting at Cooper Square Committee, on East 4th Street. Cooper Sq has been essential to us in our fight. They are currently helping us prepare for our upcoming date in court. They will be joining us in court when that day arrives. Anyone in our situation in the East Village and Lower East Side needs to make use of the great and generous and knowledgeable Cooper Square Committee. I will blog on them in more detail soon. We were very pleased to have Council Member Rosie Mendez join us. We can't come up with the words to express how we feel about her support for our struggle. 

Rosie Mendez

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Electrical Hazard

These wires have been dangling in front of this door for weeks. The apartment is rent stabilized. There are no electrical wires dangling in front of the apartments Magnum has "renovated". Is this a form of harassment?

Dirty Hall

Dust on the first floor of 118. its been there for weeks.

I have a friend that works in Forensics. I'm certain that she could easily name the make of the shoe that is so clearly imprinted in the dust on the floor.
Got Mail? The dust inside my mail box has been there for a year. I took this photograph to illustrate how the construction dust has penetrated every single aspect of our lives.

There is no way anyone can slip past the plastic over our doors and not get a coating of dust. I've tried many numerous ways of getting past the plastic without a dusting. Impossible.

Dust inside our apartments. That plastic does nothing to keep the dust out. If you look closely, you can see that the dust has a white grainy, chunky texture. Kinda scary.

The Social Network

We the tenants of 118 and 120 East 4th Street have formed a tenant association, and we have also formed and created our own social network. One of our members set up a private online discussion group. Our own East 4th Street social network. Creating and joining this network has taken us away from feelings of  fear and isolation caused by Magnum Real Estate Group. This network has pulled us together as a strong united group creating new bonds of  friendship. This social network is a place to organize, share information, and is a good forum for venting frustrations. Our network has also been a place for humor. Its been an essential tool for us, in terms of getting, and distributing necessary information. Its so easy to get the news of the day out quickly to all members. When something occurs in 120, everybody will know about it in 120, and in 118. The use of today's technology has enabled us to keep an eye on the Magnum Real Estate Group. I realized one day that, Wow! everyone has a phone with a camera. We have more eyes than they have! There are more of us then there are of them. One needs to realize that there are more tenants than there are aggressive greedy landlords. We have the power of numbers on our side, if our side would just realize this. Using the Internet, cell phone technology, and our social network is helping us connect the dots. I recommend it to anyone in our type of situation. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Magnum Song

Corporate Cannibal Legalized Criminal

East 4th Street

In Violation Of Law And Common Sense

These are photos of work being done on a cement awning over the entrance to 120 East 4th St. taken by a tenant who lives there. I quote that tenant here, "The DOB (NYC Dept. of Buildings) has done nothing to curtail the likes of Ben Shaoul, with, out in the open violations, and a pattern of endangering human beings in the name of a quick profit. Shame on Magnum Real Estate Group, Fortune East, and Ben Shaoul, but shame on the DOB as well".
The worker was perched up on the narrow awning drilling without any form of protection like a harness.
The man working beneath had no protective gear. No hard hat. 
"The worker spoke no English, and when I asked that he be more careful and get better placed, he waved, smiling, not understanding anything I was saying, back to drilling as fast as he could".
Another tenant said "the worker jackhammering on the awning he was standing on, did fall and hurt himself". There was no permit for this work.

This is the entrance before the jackhammer.

This is the new awning.
This large metal structure is held in place by 4 small screws, 2 of which are in the mortar between the bricks. Image what will happen after a couple of winters of freezing, thawing, and a heavy snow. Any engineers out there with any thoughts regarding this?

This is looking up through the glass. Think of all the icicles forming on the fire escape, and falling 5 stories onto the glass. It is collecting dirt and debris. Presently there is no way of cleaning it. 

Jane Says

"The point of cities is, multiplicity of choice".

AJ Clarke’s Role in this Mess

Okay, so you’ve heard some of our issues, but some of you may be wondering, “HOW did this all come about?  How can a new landlord come in, empty half the building and basically double the rents?”

Well, they had help.

AJ Clarke Realty was the management company for our buildings prior to the current landlord/management agency, Fortune East.  Back then we had an actual PERSON to go to with issues, our managing agent, Steve Kaplan.  The buildings were well maintained, spotlessly clean, and there was no funny business with rent checks or lease renewals.  We thought Steve was, if not the most personable guy, at least somewhat efficient and accessible.   Too many NYC tenants were (and are) unaware that a building’s management company (and Realtors and landlords too) may not have their best interest at heart; that they may indeed have a separate agenda that does not include their future living arrangements.  Over a period of about seven years, AJ Clarke stealthily destabilized a good number of apartments.  We can surmise now that AJ Clarke’s REAL role was to prepare the property for sale. 

Here’s how it works:

Say you’re managing a building that the owner is looking to sell and you have X number of rent stabilized apartments.  You know the building will fetch a higher price if only those apartments were market rate.  What do you do?  You take a stabilized apartment and offer it at LESS than the legal rent.  This is called preferred rent.  A tenant moves in thinking they're getting a deal, but when their lease is up, the preferred rent is rescinded.  So they are faced with, not only that rent increase, but the additional percentage tacked on by the Rent Guidelines Board that year.  The tenant moves out and the managing agent can now add an additional 20% vacancy increase.  For instance; if you have an apartment whose rent is registered as $1300 a month, you give it to a new tenant with the preferred rent of $1000 a month.  When it's time to renew the rent is now $1300, plus the RGB approved yearly increase (say, 5%).  The rent is now $1365.  If the tenant is unable or unwilling to absorb the $365 increase they leave and another 20% is tacked on.  The new legal rent is $1638.  Now they don’t pass on these increases to the next tenant, maybe they offer it as $1300…until their lease is up. Bang!  The cycle starts anew.

This is perfectly legal.  Our politicians (our rent laws are controlled by Albany, not the city) have bent to the will of one of the most powerful lobby groups in the state; The Real Estate Board of New York.  Their tireless efforts, combined with generous donation from real estate moguls (see: http://www.observer.com/2010/real-estate/tishman-speyer-lead-pack-cuomo-campagin-contributions ) have effectively eroded our rent laws to the point where we are losing an estimated 20, 0000 units to destabilization a year!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rocky Says Thank You

"I'm deeply  moved by your thoughts and care. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me"
He smiled so much when he was told about the community response.

Scaffold Snafu

Around the corner on First Avenue at Third Street, on Wednesday, February 1:

Ben Shaoul's crew (Magnum Real Estate Group, Fortune East, to name but a few of the hydra's heads), are at work on bringing a Starbucks to the East Village, to the very location where the popular Bean had started life. They gave only a month's notice to the Bean to get out. The omnivorous hydra rides the coattails of the neighborhood original.

As captured below, an ascending scaffold suddenly dangles at a dangerous angle.

Reverberations of when Shaoul was in partnership at 303 East 51st Street, where a crane toppled on March 15, 2008, smashing a building, injuring two dozen people and killing 7 people. here and here

Making the Case:
"If Ben Shaoul’s Magnum Management is indeed the operating arm behind PVE Associates LLC, it wouldn’t be the first time Shaoul’s involvement in a highly publicized event has escaped the media and public’s attention.
In a December 2007 article by Steve Cutler in the trade newspaper The Real Deal, in which Shaoul was interviewed, Shaoul’s Magnum Group was identified, along with Kennelly Development, as a partner in the 40-story building at 303 E. 51st St., where seven workers were killed in a crane accident on March 15 of this year, in one of the worst construction accidents in the city’s history." - The Villager

The crew struggles to right the scaffold.

A passerby exclaims "They're stupid!"

The resting point remains askew.

Have safety precautions been taken?

from Sacramento State Environmental Health and Safety:
Swinging Scaffolds (Two-Point Suspension)
...Each worker must be protected by a personal fall arresting system attached to an independent lifeline. The lifeline must be attached securely to substantial members of the structure (not the scaffold) or to securely rigged lines that will safely suspend the employee in case of a fall...

Thanks EV Grieve

EV Grieve posted our story about Rocky and his sister Esme. Thanks to EV Grieve for helping to get Rocky's story out there to a larger audience, and a thanks for including us on your blog list.


WABC files report on East Village Farms, mentions local blogger

WABC files report on East Village Farms, mentions local blogger

Thursday Humor


Quentin Crisp says, "doing housework is pointless, after 3 years the dust doesn't get any worse"


Today there is an army of workers in 118, working on every floor making the maximum amount of noise possible for an individual human being to make. There is a Stop Work order for Apt 19, but that has not prevented them from tearing apart  Apt 17 across the hall. They have a work permit but no Apt number on the permit. This is the first time an Apt number has not been noted on a permit. Hmmmm. There are at least six to eight workers in #17 hacking away at the walls, ceiling and floor. The noise and shaking in the building is something to be experienced. But only once. In the halls the other workers cannot hear so they yell at great volume  to communicate with each other. One worker was outside my door at 8:30 am this morning with a large industrial size vacuum. The noise is similar to that of a Jet engine. This is the first time during this year long ordeal of continuos construction that I have seen a vacuum of any type used to clean up the mess. The usual method of cleaning is using the sort of cleaning fluid one would normally take a capful of, and add to a gallon of water. Here in 118 and 120 a worker pours the cleaner out of a gallon size jug directly onto the floor and wipes the floor with a rag under his shoe. After a long day of brown and white dust, and noise, we are asphyxiated by cleaning products.

Loud noise destroys cells in the Cochlea.