By Bill Parry
New York City and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced separate investigations into allegations of tenant harassment and intimidation at a condominium at 47-55 39th Place in Sunnyside, which has displays of Nazi and Confederate imagery, swastikas and other symbols of hate in the lobby.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights launched its probe following reports from City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), tenants and condo owners of a hostile environment due to alleged tenant harassment by the property manager, Neal Milano, who sits on the condo’s board.
Under the city’s Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate against or harass tenants because of their race, color, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation and other protected classes.
“Despite hostile rhetoric on the national level, no one in New York City has permission to harass or threaten another person because of who they are, what they believe or what they look like,” said Hollis Pfitsch, NYC Commission on Human Rights Deputy Commissioner of the Law Enforcement Bureau. “The commission will continue to use every tool it has to investigate and prosecute violators and encourages anyone who witnesses or is a victim of discrimination or harassment to step forward and report it to the commission.”
Residents of the building are also encouraged to submit complaints to Schneiderman’s office at 1-800-771-7755.
Multiple city agencies joined Van Bramer for a Day of Action Tuesday where they distributed fliers on tenants rights and discriminatory harassment, and answered questions on legal protections and services against discrimination.
“It is now more important than ever for New Yorkers to stand united as one city and reject discrimination and intolerance,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We will not let tenants in Sunnyside or across the five boroughs be intimidated or threatened for speaking out against hatred.”
Van Bramer joined community leaders for a rally outside the building last week where residents came and went without speaking to the media, afraid of being caught on surveillance video.
“The tenants of this Sunnyside condominium have been terrorized at the hands of this property manager for far too long,” Van Bramer said during the Day of Action. “After speaking with the commissioner on behalf of the tenants and condominium owners, I’m pleased that the Commission on Human Rights has decided to open an investigation into this condominium board member and property manager after tenants reported constant intimidation, harassment, and retaliation. Clearly, their rights are being violated. And with the announcement of this investigation today, we send a strong message that we uphold and defend the rights of tenants in New York City.”
Van Bramer was shocked to discover the building listing includes the names of notorious Nazis Jose Mengele and Rudolph Hess and he said the investigations come at a fortuitous moment. Milano, who boasts of having guns in his apartment, according to Van Bramer, is expected to return from an extended vacation soon.
“The people in the building are asking me and others what will happen when he comes home — he will be very angry because of what’s happened — and what he will do to us,” Van Bramer said. “All of us have an obligation to protect these people to make sure they’re safe in their homes and that there are no acts of retaliation.”
He also said the NYPD is engaged and is “very well aware of what has happened in this building.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr