Days After Buying 215 West 84th Street, Naftali Group Pushing Tenants Out

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The Cuomo administration extended a moratorium on COVID-related evictions through Aug. 31, but that’s not keeping some owners from seeking to purge tenants from their buildings.

Days after purchasing 215 West 84th Street for $71 million, representatives from the Naftali Group have told some longtime residents to leave once their leases run out or face eviction, a tenant told Commercial Observer.

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“They said they’re not offering month-to-month leases, just get out,” Candice Solomon, who has lived in the building with her fiance for more than a decade, told CO. “There are some people who have been here for so long, they’ve raised their families here. All of us paid our rent.”

Solomon said her seven-story building’s prior owner, Eagle Court, warned her in January that it was in negotiations to sell the property, and the new owners wouldn’t renew leases because it intended to tear the site down and erect a high-rise. (A representative from the Naftali Group said it was too early to discuss plans for the property, although a spokeswoman with the union 32BJ SEIU said the owners were retaining the building’s workforce.)

The prior manager also tried to get her to sign an estoppel agreement stating her monthly and annual rent, but she refused, saying she’d prefer to deal with the new owners. 

When she saw flyers posted in her lobby indicating the 136-unit, century-old property was “under new management” in early June, she sent an email introducing herself. Instead, a property manager from the building’s management company, Choice New York Companies, called her, claiming that he sent a 60-day notice instructing her to leave by August 11. (Choice New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

Solomon said there was no way she could move so quickly. Her lease on her duplex, for which she pays $3,450 a month, runs out on July 31. She said the management company didn’t even offer a new lease or more time to find a new home. 

“I don’t know what kind of people these people are,” she said. “I’m worried they’re going to lock my apartment and throw all my stuff on the street. I’m afraid to leave the building until our lease is up. That’s how scared I am.”

Upper West Side residents have experienced evictions and displacement pressures over the past year, despite the governor’s executive orders

But tenants across the city have a number of rental protections they can utilize if their new landlords file a case. Those who can’t afford to pay their rent can submit a hardship application to the state, indicating that they lost income or had higher COVID-related expenses during the pandemic. 

Residents in buildings built before 1973 with six or more units may also qualify for additional tenant protections under the state’s rent stabilization law. City housing records indicated the Upper West Side building may contain one or more rent-regulated units, although landlords have deregulated 155,000 units since 1994 by raising prices to market-rate levels.

So far, the owners of the building are ceasing to renew leases, tenants said. Solomon said her neighbors are shell-shocked over the orders after quarantining in their building for the past 15 months. She was looking forward to planning her wedding later this summer, and now is speaking with brokers while weighing her legal options.

“I know it doesn’t matter to business people, but the human part of this is so wrong, especially with COVID,” she said. “We’re all suffering from post-traumatic stress. Since March 16 last year, there hasn’t been quiet enjoyment of an apartment building.”