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Gothamist: 20 Buildings Owned By Notorious East Village Landlord Will Be Tested For Toxic Lead Dust

Gothamist

MAY 7, 2016

20 Buildings Owned By Notorious East Village Landlord Will Be Tested For Toxic Lead Dust

BY MIRANDA KATZ

At the behest of eight elected officials, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will test 20 buildings in the East Village for lead, all of which are owned by Raphael Toledano, a landlord who's been repeatedly accused of tenant harassment. DOHMH previously tested three of Toledano's buildings—514 East 12th Street, 235 East 5th Street, and 233 East 5th Street—and found that concentrations of lead dust in the buildings' common areas far exceeded the

Environmental Protection Agency's hazard standards. At 233 East 5th Street, concentrations were 16 times that standard.

Rent-regulated tenants living in Toledano's buildings, organized as the Toledano Tenant Coalition, have further alleged that the landlord has arbitrarily denied their lease renewals, ordered them to vacate their apartments, and intimidated them.

"There have been layers of dust in my building and apartment—so much that I was told by my doctor to wear a dust mask in my own house," said Holly Slayton, who lives in Toledano's building at 510 East 12th Street. "My daughter, who is seven years old, just had an upper respiratory infection. The illegal work in our building has left cracks in the hallway walls. We do not feel safe in our own homes. I have lived in New York City for 22 years and have never been treated so badly by a landlord."

On Thursday, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Councilmember Corey Johnson penned letters to both Toledano and DOHMH Commissioner Mary Bassett, asking Bassett to have DOHMH inspect the rest of Toledano's buildings for lead and demanding that Toledano cease harassing his tenants.

According to Gottfried, Toledano is already being investigated by the State Attorney General and Tenant Protection Unit.

"Numerous constituents have contacted our offices alleging that they have been baselessly denied lease renewals, served frivolous notices to vacate, intimidated by your agents, or even threatened with disruptive construction and uninhabitable living conditions," the officials wrote to Toledano.

"Let us be clear: these actions are both unacceptable and unlawful. We wholeheartedly support our constituents in the Toledano Tenants Coalition, and demand that Brookhill Properties immediately cease the alleged acts of harassment."

Brookhill Properties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shortly after Toledano took over management at 444 East 13th Street last March, tenants there began reporting harassment: he allegedly threatened at one point to drop dynamite on the building and then let everyone 'figure it out themselves,' and in May, Toledano gave the tenants fruit baskets and wine in place of gas and hot water.

That building is among those now being tested for lead contamination, along with 97 Second Avenue, 66 East 7th Street, 58 St. Marks Place, 510 East 12th Street, 334 East 9th Street, 332 E 6th Street, 329 East 12th Street, 327 East 12th Street, 325 East 12th Street, 27 St. Marks Place, 253 East 10th Street, 231 East 5th Street, 229 East 5th Street, 228 East 6th Street, 223 East 5th Street, 221 East 10th Street, 125 West 16th Street, 329 East 6th Street, 95 East 7th Street, and 332 East 9th Street.

"Every tenant has the right to a clean, safe place to live," Brewer said. "When landlords use construction to make homes uninhabitable or deny legally-guaranteed services like water or cooking gas, they must be held accountable."

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