The stated purpose of the inspections is to ensure temporary walls comply with building and fire safety codes, an issue the Fire Department has previously raised with the owner. Tenants and elected officials, however, suggested that the inspections were an excuse to evict longtime tenants, allowing the company to convert the units to market-rate rents.
“Without any clear purpose or limits to these inspections, tenants are left to worry that this is just a last-ditch effort to clear out longtime residents,” said City Council Member Dan Garodnick, a lifelong Stuy Town resident. “These inspections should not be used as a way to play ‘gotcha’ with residents.”
They also say that Tishman Speyer is unreasonably giving them only 48 hours’ notice of an inspection and don’t specify inspection times beyond 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents with “unsanitary conditions” have been threatened with eviction and some have had their gas turned off, they say.
Mr. Garodnick displayed a letter from Tishman Speyer, which stated that an architectural consultant and property management representative would inspect an apartment, with inspections taking five to 10 minutes.
“A landlord has the right to inspect, we appreciated that,” said Mr. Gardonick, but demanded that Tishman Speyer give tenants more notice in advance of inspections, more specific inspection times, and meet with tenants to address their concerns.
John Marsh, vice president of the Tenants Association, called the inspections a “sweep” that went beyond Tishman Speyer’s concern for safety. He said a man’s apartment was walked in on when he was sleeping; and a female tenant was in the shower when the inspectors went into her apartment.
A tenant who said she had lived in the complex for 61 years said that inspectors did accommodate her request that they arrive between 1 and 3 p.m., but when she told them to wait outside while she was on the phone, they left after a few minutes.
“The law requires that all temporary walls be compliant with code. We take that very seriously,” Tishman Speyer said in a statement. “As a result, we are conducting these inspections. If other hazards are observed during a visit, we work with our residents to address them as well.”
Tishman Speyer is currently involved in a lawsuit with tenants that claims the landlord unfairly de-regulated rent controlled apartments. The landlord is also at high risk of defaulting on its loans, as the revenue the complex generates, enough to give it a value of about $2 billion, is far too little to cover payments on its $4.4 billion in debt.