< Return To News Archive
October 15, 1985
An SRO moves 'em out

50 evicted in 3 weeks; bills seek protection

by Paula La Rosa
For Charles Buff the message was as loud as the knock on his door: "The manager told me to pack up and get out."

For Richard Pugh the message was less direct but just as clear: "They refused to accept my rent. This is their way of dealing with me....They want everyone out of the building."

Both men live at the St. Clair, a single room occupancy hotel at 69 W. 38th St.

The City Council Housing Committee will hold hearings today on a bill aimed at providing more protection for SRO tenants such as Buff and Pugh by making it illegal for landlords to hoard empty apartments.

18-month moratorium
The city has imposed an 18-month moratorium preventing landlords from converting SRO hotels to luxury apartments.

But the moratorium has not stopped landlords from evicting tenants -- both legally and illegally -- and hoarding empty apartments. Judith Spektor, director of the Mayor's Office of SRO Housing, acknowledged the problem and said some landlords are emptying their buildings, anticipating the end of the moratorium.

"They are taking a gamble that at the end of the moratorium maybe they would have something to gain by having a partially vacant property," Spektor said.

The Housing Committee, whose chairman is Councilman Archie Spigner (D-Queens), will consider three bills. One bill would prohibit hoarding in SROs and the other two would prevent it in any building. The legislation provides for stiff fines if landlords do not fully rent out their properties.

When Mayor Koch signed the moratorium into law in June he was warned that SRO tenants needed more protection. George McDonald, candidate for City Council president who lives in a shelter for the homeless converted from an SRO, argued that landlords would harass tenants and force them out to keep the buildings empty until the moratorium expired next July.

50 evicted in Sept.
At the St. Clair, nearly 50 tenants were evicted from the hotel during three weeks last month and landlord Max Goldberg is under no obligation to rent the vacant apartments.

Goldberg says he does not understand English and allows building manager George Leguillow to do his talking. Leguillow said the tenants had moved out because they had found better places to live.

Part of the problem involves the "vulnerability" of SRO residents, according to Spektor.

Many tenants in SROs are not familiar with their legal rights, Spektor said, and simply vacate their apartments when a landlord tells them to leave.

"The prevailing mood is fear," says Alexander Morales, community liaison worker for the Mayor's Office of SRO Housing.

< Return To News Archive ^ back to top