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Architect 'Not Aware' Tenant Still Living in Building Set for Construction

By Maya Rajamani | July 22, 2016 7:59am | Updated on July 22, 2016 6:54pm
 The building at 442 W. 22nd St., between Ninth and 10th avenues.
The building at 442 W. 22nd St., between Ninth and 10th avenues.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

CHELSEA — When an architect presented plans this week to renovate a vacant West 22nd Street building by adding a penthouse and converting it to a single-family home, he ran into one major stumbling block.

“I still live in that building,” said an attendee at the Community Board 4 meeting Monday, where the plan was discussed, to surprised murmurs throughout the room.

Since 2003, a documentary producer named Jonathan — who asked that his last name be withheld — has leased an apartment in 442 W. 22nd St., between Ninth and 10th avenues, he said after the meeting.

Architect William Suk, meanwhile, hadn’t been informed of the tenant's presence in the building.

“My apologies,” he said of the plan to bring the building in the Chelsea Historic District “back to its original glory.” 

“I was not aware of that.”

Through his contact at the building's management company, Jonathan heard the new owner had plans to convert the property — currently made up of more than two-dozen apartment units — into a single-family home.

He wasn’t aware, however, that the owner's plans had moved forward.

The new owner bought the building at some point during the past year, Suk said, but Jonathan said he only found out about Monday’s meeting after seeing a flier posted to his front door.

Suk declined to comment further after the meeting, but wrote in an email that he had “made a mistake in calling this building out as vacant.”

A request for comment that Suk forwarded to his client was not immediately answered on Thursday.

Since property management company NYC Management  took over around 2011, Jonathan claims it has harassed him for checks they’ve already cashed on several occasions and has failed to make repairs at the site.

A few times, he said he returned from stints of traveling for work to discover they’d changed the lock on his door.

“The management company did sketchy stuff,” he said. “I don’t want to go away on a shoot and find that I can’t get into my building.”

A representative for NYC Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

At one point, Jonathan’s contact at the company offered him a buyout to leave the apartment, but he rejected the offer, he said.

His last remaining neighbor moved out in June 2015 while he was on a four-month shoot for work, he said.

“Bit by bit, [the neighbors] got bought out,” he said.

As of Wednesday, neither Suk nor any other representative of the building’s owner had contacted Jonathan, he said.

The building’s owner has yet to file for or be issued any permits at the site, a city Department of Buildings spokesman said on Thursday.

The department received two complaints through 311 this year for work carried out at the site without a permit, but an inspector who visited the building in May didn’t observe any “violating conditions,” he said.

After receiving follow-up complaints in June and July, the department wasn’t able to gain access to the building, he added.

For now, Jonathan says he is “just going to do what [he’s] been doing for the past 13 years — long before this current nonsense started.”

“Which is to say, I’m going to do my job, I’m going to pay my rent, I’m going to enjoy my community and my city and live my life,” he said.

“And I’ll just deal with any roadblocks as they come."