According to a copy of the complaint, 61st Street Holdings LLC purchased 430 61st Street in April 2007. Since then, tenants say managing agent Soo Fung Dong has verbally abused and harassed them and failed to maintain their apartments.
According to the complaint, residents have heard Dong tell prospective tenants the owner does not want Hispanic people in the building because they have too many belongings and too many occupants living in the apartments.
Felix Mesa detailed some of the harassment he and his grandmother have faced.
“The landlord is following us,” he said. “I'd be trying to come upstairs and she'd be like 'you don't live here.' Everybody deserves their right to live in their building without being harassed.”
Tenant Samantha Bravo, 11, shared the traumatic impact the landlord's actions have had on her whole family, including late-night visits.
“You open the door and see a lady handing you a letter that states you must leave your home in three weeks,” she said. “Would you feel scared? Enough is enough.”
Bravo added that in addition to the alleged harassment, adverse conditions in the building have had a tremendous impact on her and her family.
“Because we had no heat my brother got pneumonia, and since I have asthma, it made it hard for me and my brother to breathe,” she said.
Councilman Carlos Menchaca joined tenant advocates and organizers from organizers from Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) and the Urban Justice Center at a rally last week to address the situation.
“This is a message that we're trying to send across the entire city,” he said. “Landlords cannot get away with discriminating against folks before they even come in, and discriminate against residents while they're in their own home or walking in the halls.”
Menchaca said incidents like this are a product of the gentrification that's taking place across New York City.
“Gentrification is alive and well,” he said. “These are the little things we're talking about when we're talking about gentrification.”