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LES landlord hires private engineer, informs rent-stabilized tenants building must be demolished

Posted: 5:13 PM, Aug 08, 2014
Updated: 2014-08-08 17:57:50-04

LOWER EAST SIDE (PIX11) -- "Dear Tom, I'm sorry to tell you that we will not be renewing your lease. We have been advised by an engineer that the building has to be rebuilt and most likely demolished."

That bombshell letter was delivered to the 24 tenants of 129 1st Ave. They all live in rent-stabilized apartments, but were told to be out of their homes in 90 days.

"It's a punch in the gut," said Tom Kirby, a resident of 129 1st Ave. "I think it's mean spirited and not enough notice."

Landlord Lee Odell told PIX11 by phone today that he had sent out that notice after a preliminary report by his private engineer.

However, the only violation on file with the Department of Buildings was a failure to file an annual boiler inspection report from 2012.

"I think it's an action of greed," Kirby noted.

And residents just want to keep their apartments. Tom has called this building home for 13 years.

So, PIX11 took a copy of that letter to Alan J. Goldberg, an expert in landlord-tenant law.

"First of all it sounds like it's clear harassment to me," Goldberg said.

Goldberg believes the tenants clearly have the law on their side.

"Any rent-stabilized tenant in New York City had the right to remain in their apartment unless they are ordered out by court after a trial or unless there is a vacate order by the Department of Buildings or Department of Housing Preservation and Development," the lawyer said.

Goldberg's office gets calls every day from renters in similar situations -- and he's seen an uptick of cases on the Lower East Side.

"Property values are soaring and landlords are resorting to means that I haven't seen back from the 80s the early 80s of harassing tenants trying to force tenants out of buildings and doing so for clear profit motives," Goldberg observed.

The neighbors at 149 1st Ave will meet next Tuesday to organize a collective response to their landlord, Lee Odell.

The tenants are getting support from a local non profit -- Good Ole Lower East Side .

"One of the first things we want to know from the landlord is, where is that report?" Wasim Lone of GOLES said.

"We're not going to go down without a fight," Kirby said.