HARLEM — Claudio the Barber, who was facing eviction from the East Harlem storefront he has occupied for 60 years, has reached an agreement with the landlord until the end of the year.
But the future of the 80-year-old's well known business is still up in the air.
Claudio Caponigro has agreed to pay rent of $1,375 per month for the space at East 116th Street, more than double the $650 per month he was paying but less than the $1,650 the landlord believes is market rate.
"I'm going to stay, but we are still going to fight," Caponigro said Tuesday as he prepared to cut a client's hair. "It's not right. This 15 foot by 15 foot space should not cost more than $600 or $700."
Local elected officials, including Rep. Charles Rangel, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, have rallied to Caponigro's defense, saying that his is a neighborhood institution that should be allowed to stay. Caponigro's business is one of the last holdovers from a time when East Harlem was a refuge for Italian immigrants.
The building was recently recommended as one of 19 structures deserving of individual landmark status in a potential East Harlem historic district. Sports Illustrated once conducted a photo shoot there, and Jennifer Lopez filmed a music video inside the shop.
Yat Man, an attorney for landlord Hong Lin, said his client agreed to the lower rent because he understands Caponigro's importance to the community. But his client's stance will change when the time comes for lease renewal.
"At the end of the year, if he does not agree to the amount that we asked for originally, we have the right to ask him to leave," Man said.
"We are giving him a chance. Maybe if he wants to raise his price a bit that will help but we are looking for market rent."