Mendez Joins Third Street Tenants for Stoopside Rally

tenants2Laura Edwins

Councilwoman Rosie Mendez joined around 50 tenants of three buildings on a stoop at 50 East Third Street yesterday evening to protest the unexpected non-renewal of their leases.

Last month, the Local reported that roughly 17 market-rate tenants from 50, 54 and 58 East Third Street received letters demanding that they move out when their leases expire over the summer. Their landlord, Abart Holdings, is in negotiations to sell the buildings.

Yesterday the tenants, some strumming guitars and singing protest songs, assembled outside of their buildings along with the councilwoman and representatives from activist organizations Good Old Lower East Side and the Cooper Square Committee.

tenants3Laura Edwins

At the last tenants meeting in April, when asked how many planned to stay in their apartments even after their lease expired, about a dozen hands went up. But yesterday, some tenants were still undecided.

“I’m waiting and seeing,” said Alex Ferrill, who lives on the third floor of 50 East Third Street. “I’m a little leery about risking my credit rating.”

Mr. Ferrill said one of his roommates seemed willing to stay and fight, while the other was less inclined. He has started a cursory search on Craigslist.

“We want to stay, but we just don’t know if it’s possible right now,” said Laura Brennan, one of Mr. Ferrill’s roommates. Their lease is set to expire June 14, but for now, they’re waiting to see what happens to the tenants who must move out before them.

Erin McCarthy said she is in a similar situation. She has lived on the fourth floor of 50 East Third Street for three years. “We’ll see what happens with this,” she said. “I’m hoping the sale doesn’t go through or they have a change of heart, but that seems unlikely.”

tenantsLaura Edwins

Greg Palchek and his wife Sue Palchek-Essenpreis, who must be out by May 14, seem to have become the de facto leaders of the tenants association. They still plan to continue paying rent after May 14, despite indications that the management company planned to play hardball. “Greg got a nasty phone call letting us know how horrible it would be for us if we didn’t get out,” said Ms. Palchek Essenpreis, referring to the possibility of credit problems and blacklisting. Abart Holdings did not immediately return a phone call from The Local this morning.

The tenants association is still in the process of reviewing each tenant’s rental history to see if any of the apartments were deregulated illegally. Steve Herrick, executive director of the Cooper Square Committee, suggested they also petition Fannie Mae, which he said might be able to pressure the building owner as the holder of the mortgage.

While the Palcheck-Essenpreis’ seemed determined to fight to the end, they said they understood that other tenants still hadn’t made up their minds.

For Mr. Ferrill, it’s more than just a matter of moving. The 37-year-old office manager said he’s been considering some bigger changes, like moving out of Manhattan and living without roommates.

“It’s sort of forcing me into making decisions about a lot of other things,” he said.