Ns News Online Desk: Holdout tenants at an Upper West Side building that’s being turned into a homeless shelter say it’s been a living hell since the landlord started renting rooms to the de Blasio administration.
Flor Soto said renovations routinely rattle the former Hotel Alexander until as late as 10:30 p.m., and pungent marijuana smoke wafts through the hallways and into her apartment. Soto, 34, also said that security guards randomly knock on her door — “which they aren’t supposed to do” — and that people play loud music on their cellphones and yell back and forth to each other.
“I have never in my life had the amount of stress I am under now. I’m perpetually watching to see who else is coming and going on my floor,” said Soto, who works as a personal assistant to a doctor. “The situation has become borderline harassment,” she said.
Soto and her mom, Hilda, share a $400-a-month studio apartment and are among 11 longtime tenants who refused to move out of the building at 306 W. 94th St. when landlord Alexander Scharf decided to convert it from a single-room-occupancy rental building into a shelter. Several tenants and a neighborhood group failed in a legal bid to block the shelter’s opening, but will be in court on Tuesday to try to shut it down.
Another renter, Jennifer Gonzaga, 22, blamed the weed smoking on her new, homeless neighbors and said it’s aggravating her 3-year-old son’s lung condition.
“My son starts coughing more than usual when we walk through the hallways on his way to school, and it smells so we open the hallway window,” she said.Gonzaga, who’s studying to be a physician’s assistant and lives in a $500-a-month studio, also complained that the building’s shared bathrooms “are really dirty,” with un scrubbed toilets and tubs.
“I don’t even want to shower my son sometimes, and if I do, I have to clean the restroom myself,” she said. Meanwhile, one of the homeless people who recently moved in said he’s not happy, either.
Richard Rice, 47, claimed that he lost a $15-an-hour job at the Whole Foods Market at Columbus Circle because city officials repeatedly delayed his move from the troubled Freedom House shelter nearby, which the city recently closed. Rice also complained that he can’t bring food into his room in the new shelter, or receive visits from his 17-year-old daughter, who’s undergoing in-patient, mental health treatment.
A spokesman for the city Department of Homeless Services called Soto’s claims regarding security door knocks and after-hours construction “patently false” and said there were only “two infractions of program policies” during the past month, both of which got the homeless clients transferred elsewhere. An employee of Praxis Housing Initiatives, which runs the shelter, declined to comment.