By Allen Houston
Local politicians and tenants rallied on Aug. 5 against a landlord they claim has created unsafe living conditions at 350 East 52nd Street
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, State Sen. Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and building tenants as well as workers from 32BJ SEIU, the union that represents doormen and other building workers.
Landlord William Koeppel was one of a dozen building owners who were unable to work out a new contract with the union last year, so he fired the old building workers and brought in a new staff of temporary workers. Garbage piled up at the building because garbage collectors refused to cross the picket lines, bringing rats to the building, some residents claim. The new doormen have been accused of being less vigilant, harassing renters and, in one case, giving the key to an apartment to a person that they shouldn’t have.
Building resident Curt Swanson addresses the media surrounded by State Sen. Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, other residents and members of 32BJ.
Building resident Curt Swanson addresses the media surrounded by State Sen. Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, other residents and members of 32BJ. Photo by Allen Houston.
“It was an ex-boyfriend,” said a resident who didn’t want to share their name. “She walked in and there he was. It was a scary situation.”
“When you have a relationship with a doorman or building workers, you build a level of trust,” Stringer said. “These are people who play a role in keeping you safe if you live within a building. That’s gone now.”
Krueger first became aware of the situation when complaints started coming in to her district office.
“This isn’t a tenement building. This is a market rate building in a lovely neighborhood and the residents are paying a healthy amount of money to live here. Until this labor dispute erupted they felt pretty happy, but since then they’ve felt continually harassed by the landlord,” she said.
“People are concerned,” resident Curt Swanson said. “His sloppy greed has gotten out of control.”
This isn’t the first time that Koeppel has run afoul of tenants. In 1996, he pled guilty to putting pressure on tenants to contribute to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reelection campaign.
Koeppel passionately defended the building, saying it is in better shape than before and the claims are coming from a small percentage of the people who live in the building.
He said he tried to work a deal out with 32BJ SEIU but their extravagant wages and pensions don’t belie the current political and economic reality.
“In this economy, they are way overpriced and their work ethic is terrible,” he said. “I can understand why they are upset. They had a gravy train for a long time and it’s come to an end.”
De Blasio disputed that.
“The bottom line here is that he’s a greedy landlord who is making life miserable for his tenants,” he said.