Lone Rent-Stabilized Tenant Fights to Keep Home Amid Construction Zone
EAST VILLAGE — The last remaining tenant of an East Village building is clinging to his rent-stabilized apartment — even if that means living in a construction zone as his landlord tears up the rest of the units and renovates them.
For months, Rory Denis has been the lone holdout in the five-story apartment building where he lives on East Sixth Street between First and Second avenues, as his landlord has gutted all of the surrounding units, cut off water and electricity, and flooded the area with construction workers who make a terrible racket, he says.
"It is a nightmare," said Denis, who can only get to his fourth-floor apartment by stepping around an active work zone. "I really feel like Chicken Little with the sky falling in."
Denis, who has lived in the building since 1979 and is now in his 60s, hangs onto a bargain rent that "if I told you what it was, you would hate me," he said.
The latest problems with his apartment started in May, when landlord Nurjahan Ahmed started a construction project to renovate the building's five floors, including new plumbing and walls, online Department of Buildings records show. The work starts at 8 a.m. every weekday and has left the hallways and staircases strewn with planks of wood and electrical cords, Denis said.
"I have a lot of memories. I love my privacy. I love my apartment and the bottom line is I have nowhere to go," said Denis, who does odd jobs around the neighborhood to pay his rent as he pursues writing and stand-up comedy. "My only crime is being rent-stabilized and paying cheaper rent."
Denis took Ahmed to housing court earlier this year after she switched off the electricity and water, according to Christopher M. Schwartz, a supervising attorney at MFY Legal Services, who helped Denis with his case. They won in June, forcing Ahmed to restore the services.
Ahmed told DNAinfo New York that she has never tried to make Denis leave his apartment. She said she had no choice but to temporarily turn off the water and electricity because the aging building needed repairs.
Ahmed did not give details of the plans or a timeline for completion of the construction.
Denis' apartment has also received 11 violations this year from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, including faulty electrical wiring and defective plastered surfaces, an official from HPD said.
Despite the victory in housing court, Denis must still endure construction each day and an empty, lonely building at night. His partner was forced to leave earlier this year because of the dust from the construction, Denis said.
"At Halloween I am going to get my revenge," Denis joked, "and I am going to charge admission for entry."