25 April 2012

My Time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 6

The Wrap Up

I had previously spoken about my past experiences with Mr. Galloway to friends and at least one time in public at a Hudson Common Council meeting. That time was during the failed proposal to build permanent supportive housing at 5th Street and Warren St, the heart of Hudson's revitalizing business district. But I did not go in depth into my experiences.

There were a number of things that inspired me to want to tell the complete story of my time as Eric Galloway's tenant. But the most important one was a post I read on Carole Osterink's Gossips of Rivertown blog. That post, "Conceived in Iniquity and Born in Sin" discusses the origins of Galloway's The Lantern Group and the lawsuit by the religious non-profit whose HIV/AIDS residence that they assert was absconded by Mr. Galloway.

That case was not resolved in court, but since the Appellate Court found that the case could go forward, one can only speculate that Galloway settled the case out of court. Osterink called for Galloway or Galvan Initiative Foundation Executive Director Tom Swope to offer an explanation. To date they have not.

To be fair, Mr. Galloway's partner in the Galvan Initiatives Foundation and life partner Henry Van Ameringen has done many good things. He is a major philanthropist with a particular interest in mental health issues, gay rights and HIV/AIDS. He should be credited for the good works that he has done. It is hoped that the Galvan Initiatives Foundation (which has still not received 501(c)3 status from the IRS) will follow in the steps of Mr. Van Ameringen.
But that remains to be seen.

From an article announcing the formation of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation in the Register-Star on New Year's Eve 2011.
Galloway and van Ameringen founded the organization in 2011, according to a press release from Swope, to preserve “the unique heritage of the city of Hudson, NY, by acquiring, interpreting, conserving and maintaining buildings of architectural, historical and social significance.”

There are two parts to this: The architectural preservation and conservation initiatives “will strengthen the social fabric of the city of Hudson by promoting the provision of affordable housing, social services, cultural activities and economic opportunities for residents of Hudson.”

And secondly, a grant-making program “will provide financial support to charitable organizations operating in the vicinity of Hudson.”

With Galloway, The Lantern Group and Galvan owning 2% of the properties in Hudson there could be great promise or great risk. If Galloway is serious about improving the City of Hudson, he should first work toward creating good will. I would start by renovating and re-renting the large apartment houses he holds.

These vacant buildings are eyesores and they have contributed greatly to the large decrease in population that Hudson experienced in the last census. Of the nearly 1000 people that were lost in the 2010 census, probably half could be traced to Galloway's vacant buildings.

Getting these buildings (which are the worst buildings on their blocks) back on line, would go a long way to improving Mr. Galloway's standing in Hudson. I'd do that first, before I make grand proposals which would require a 30 year partnership with the government and the people of the City of Hudson.

Read More:
Columbia Paper Article: He Collects Hudson by Debby Mayer
Columbia Paper Editorial: What's his plan for the city? by Parry Teasdale
Register-Star Article: Non-profit's goal, city's improvement by John Mason
Extensive Coverage on Gossips of Rivertown. Search for Eric Galloway

Archives of my radio show @Issue discussing Galloway and Galvan Initiatives
April 25, 2012 episode with Carole Osterink and Debby Mayer
March 7, 2012 episode with Tom Swope, Alderman David Marston, and Carole Osterink


24 April 2012

My Time as Eric Galloway's Tenant – Part 5

Putting it all back together and the electrical problem.

Galloway's workers moved all of my possessions to Unit 25 except one, my mattress. The mattress was left in Unit 6 but was now covered in debris. My new unit was now stacked with trash bags piled 3-4 feet high. All I could do was open the door. I piled a few bags even higher so that I could at least look for a few things.

The workers had thrown all of my possessions randomly into trash bags, so finding anything was impossible. I didn't know where to start. In rooms this small, the only way to make things fit is to use every bit of vertical space possible. Unit 6 had had shelving on one full side of the unit the full height of the room. Now everything was in a complete jumble and there was nowhere to put anything away.

I found three pillows, cleared enough room to lay down on them. That is how I slept for about two weeks. I had plunged into a deep depression over the whole ordeal and did not know how to even begin to put everything back in order.

I finally crawled out of my depression, piled some more bags even higher so that I could install the shelving. Once the shelving was up, I started going through the bags. Computer equipment was mixed with shoes, food, dishes. The workers who had put the stuff in bags made no effort to put like with like. It took another 2-3 weeks to finally sort everything out.

Once I got everything in its proper place, something very strange started happening. One by one, all of my electronic equipment started burning out. I started mentioning it to other people in the building and was told by one tenant that the whole top floor had electrical problems. The building's electrical system had not been upgraded in many years. In the not too distant past most people had a refrigerator and perhaps a radio or small TV in these units. Now almost every tenant had those, plus a computer and even though the leases prohibited tenants from having air conditioners, almost everyone did since the all of the units had no cross ventilation and were sweltering without a/c. There was simply not enough juice getting to the top floor, a perpetual brown-out.  Whether Galloway knew of the problem before renting me the unit I can't say. But it is hard for me to believe that he didn't.
Nearly every unit had an air conditioner, computer, refrigerator and TV

In June, Eric Galloway sold the building. The new owner was a very decent guy. When I informed him of the problem with the electrical system, he immediately offered me a unit downstairs which solved the problem. He then upgraded the electrical system and solved the problem building-wide.

One day he stopped by to be sure that everything was OK. I assured him that it was and thanked him for helping and addressing the situation. He then told me that when he was negotiating with Eric Galloway to buy the building, Galloway told him that he only liked owning buildings with challenges. But that this building was too easy for him, that is why he was unloading it. Needless to say, the new owner regretted the day he set eyes on the building.

23 April 2012

My Time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 4

No More Than a Squatter?

I reported the break-in to my local police precinct. In addition I phoned in a complaint to the buildings department. The compliant was registered as two separate complaints. Construction without a permit and work on Sunday without a variance. I discovered afterward, that someone else in the building made a complaint on Saturday March 5, 2005 as the illegal break-in and demolition was taking place.

Ultimately what he did by breaking into my unit was illegally combine my unit and the vacant warehoused unit next door. I discovered that this was Galloway's standard operating procedure. He would do illegal conversions and other work he didn't want Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to know about on the weekends when HPD inspectors are not on duty.

The complaint for construction without a permit was was eventually dismissed because the inspector could not gain access to inspect the building on 3/11/2005 or on 3/21/2005. That is because the building had no buzzer or intercom. The front door was always locked and unless someone called, there was no way to contact tenants or the Superintendent for access. The complaint for work on a Sunday without a variance was dismissed because “No violation warranted for complaint at time of inspection”. That inspection took place nearly a year after the violation was reported, on 1/2/2006!

On Monday March 7th I went to Housing Court and filed an order to show cause. This stayed the landlord from re-letting the unit and from removing any contents, which at that point was too late. In order for the case to be heard the following day I needed to serve the landlord by 5pm which I managed to do. That put the case on the calendar for Tuesday March 8th.
Order to Show Cause for the Illegal Break-In/Possession

At the hearing, the attorney presented an Affirmation in Opposition with their answer and five exhibits.

The first four exhibits were my friends original lease for Unit 6; the renewal lease form showing the legal rent for Unit 6; the new lease which was just executed in my name for Unit 25 and my rental application for Unit 25. The final exhibit was two documents which were never signed by me and never presented to me to sign. I assume they were created solely for the answer.
Bogus Move-In Form

Bogus Move-Out Form
I'll repeat that these documents had never been presented to me nor had they been signed by me.

At the initial conference with the judge, the defendant's attorney hemmed and hawed, claimed that I was really “no more than a squatter”. Of course the landlord had just signed a lease with me, hardly something someone would do with a “squatter”. The judge sent us to conference with his aide.

In the conference, the aide kept pressing the landlord's attorney to explain whether they had legal possession of Unit 6. He continued to dance around the issue. Finally after about 10 minutes the attorney stated “If my client had asked my advice about this, I would have advised against it”. To which the Judge's aide said, “So you didn't have possession. So how do we fix this”?
After a little more back and forth, it was agreed that the Lihtan Co. would pay me $2,750. In exchange I withdrew the petition.

My Time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 3

Where the F@%$ is my stuff?

When I got back to the city on Sunday I noticed a light on in my unit that I knew I had not left on. When I got up to the unit, the locks had been changed, but the door to the vacant unit next door was open. I went in and discovered that they had broken through the wall between the vacant unit and my unit. All of my belongings were gone.

Wall broken through to illegally gain access to my unit.

I then went up to the new unit. All I could do was open the door. The unit was filled with garbage bags. All of my belongings had been thrown into trash bags, all in no particular order, shoeswith books with CDs with food.

All of my possessions were moved to my new leased unit without my knowledge or permission.

Needless to say, I was furious! I called the emergency contact number for the building and a very young associate came to the building. I asked what the F@%$ they were thinking and said that they had no right to do what they had done. He replied that they did have a right to do it. When I again explained that they did not have legal possession of the unit and that they had no right to enter it, he again said , "yes, we had a right". He said that they would put me up in the "gay guest house" on 22nd Street for the night and would see what they could do on Monday. He also said that "I should be happy, since they moved me for free"!

I told him that rather than take him up on his "generous offer", that I was going to the police precinct to report the break-in. To which he said that I could either do it their way, or my way.

I had had enough. I chose my way.

Next - No more than a squatter?

Start at Part 1

22 April 2012

My time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 2

Galloway Buys the Building

When I first moved in, the building was owned by a woman who lived in another borough. Then Eric Galloway and The Lighton Group, one of the many corporations he owns, bought it. That's when everything started going downhill.

Notices appeared on doors, people in the building were telling stories of being harassed, a number of people who had been subletting were told that one way or another, they would be evicted. Some tenants (probably due to immigration status) started leaving on their own, rather than get involved with the system.

Maintenance in the building faltered. Rats, mice, roaches and bedbugs all became a problem.  Mysterious leaks from vacant apartments became common. More tenants left. Once they left, he did not re-rent the units.

One day I had a knock on the door. It was Eric Galloway. I explained that I had nowhere else to go and that I intended to assert my rights in court. He then offered to "help me out". He offered to lease me an apartment on the top floor in my own name, it was a little larger than the unit I was in (about 125 sq. ft) and it had a small kitchenette for $400. I told him I'd think about it. But I also said that even if I were to take his offer, that I could not surrender the right to the apartment held by my friend who I was subletting from. He said that he didn't care about that.

In the meantime I was communicating with my friend in Greece about the clear drive by Galloway to empty the building and of his offer. He told me to take the new unit and he would figure out what to do when he returned to the States.

I signed the new lease on  Friday. After I did, his assistant asked when I could move upstairs. I told him that I was paid up through the month in the downstairs unit and it was only the first of the month, but that I planned on moving up everything in the next week or so.

That did not sit well with him. He said "You mean you can't move up this weekend"? To which I responded no, that I was going away for the weekend to see my mother. I left with my newly signed lease and thought nothing further about it.

Next - Where the F@%$ is my stuff?

Start at Part 1

My time as Eric Galloway's Tenant - Part 1

This is the first in a six part series of posts which detail my time as a tenant in a building owned by Eric Galloway and his companies.

The Move In

In 2005 I was living in the most deluxe and largest apartment I had ever lived in in NYC at 225 Rector Place. Apartments in Battery Park City that had been damaged in 9/11 had been discounted from the luxury rents they had once commanded. In addition, the state kicked in a monthly subsidy check for two years, to get people back into the buildings. I shared the apartment with my then boyfriend, but it was still an expensive apartment for me.  Now the subsidy was ending and the rents were going back to market level. I had to go.

225 Rector Place (Google Street View)
At around the same time, a friend asked me if I knew anyone who might be interested in renting his "apartment" in Chelsea. He was headed to Greece to study for a year or two and wanted to sublet the unit.

It was not really an apartment, but rather an extremely small (10' x 7') unit in a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building on 19th Street in Chelsea.  The rent was $322 a month.

336 West 19th Street The single window over the door was my unit. (Google Street View)

The building was at one time a five story, one family town house. Now it was cut up into six rental units on each of five floors for a total of 30 units. Each floor had a shared bathroom.

Having lived in the most expensive apartment that I'd ever lived in for the past two years I decided to sublet the unit, figuring that it would be great to pay the lowest rent I'd ever paid in the 25 years I had lived in NYC.

Fitting my entire life into 70 square feet was an ordeal. I purged many of my possessions and put others in storage. The unit had high ceilings so I built a loft, increasing my square footage to almost 140 sq. feet. I then purchased enough Elfa shelving to shelve the entire inside wall. Living in such a small space requires using every inch of vertical space.

It took some adjusting, but after a while I grew to like my extremely paired down life. There was something freeing about it. It was also a huge relief to not have most of my money going to pay rent.

The building was a mixed bag, a few old men, a few addicts/alcoholics, but mostly it was young men, some trying to find their way in NYC, and others who were living with HIV/AIDS and trying to manage or survive. I fell in the latter category, HIV+ and dealing with a number of complicated, but not life threatening issues.

This was not a Supportive Housing building. It was simply an SRO that provided small units at affordable (rent stabilized) prices.

18 April 2010

Club Helsinki Opens

Helsinki Hudson opens.
The facility is truly amazing. Every detail has been meticulously done.

Check out the Helsinki Hudson website.

31 March 2010

Liar Liar Pants On Fire...

I know that by now almost everyone has already seen the Cosmo spread of recently elected Senator Scott Brown.

But I thought it might be fun to see him without pants again, while watching Rachel Maddow call him out for being the LIAR he is.

08 March 2010

Kirsten Gillibrand for Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand lives in Hudson NY 
(well really in Greenport, but close enough).

I am the Chairman of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, and I couldn't be prouder to chair her hometown Democratic Committee.

As a freshman Senator and an appointed one at that, she has taken the lead on a host of issues, but there has never been a stronger leader in the Senate on ending discrimination against gay people.

I was at a meeting of Hudson Valley Chairs this past weekend at which we unanimously endorsed the Senator. She was incredible, and I'm pretty jaded when it comes to political speeches. She knows the issues and she offers plans to solve problems. On a host of issues, she is not content with going with the flow. She is taking the lead. 

Kirsten Gillibrand for President...er...I mean Senator.