By Bill Parry
The property manager of a Sunnyside condominium who became the focus of multiple state and city investigations after he was accused of intimidating and harassing residents has resigned from the condominium’s board of managers in a settlement the city’s Commission on Human Rights announced last Friday.
Neal Milano, 70, and his “one-man reign of terror” were exposed by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) after he toured the lobby of the building at 47-55 39th Pl. in August, where he found displays of Nazi and Confederate imagery, swastikas and symbols of hate on every wall, and even the names of infamous Nazis Josef Mengele and Rudolph Hess in the building’s directory.
The Commission launched an investigation into discrimination at the condo after several tenants and unit owners reported that Milano was harassing tenants on their immigration status, national origin, and race, as well as creating a generally hostile environment.
“This kind of behavior is disgusting and unacceptable. People were terrified,” Van Bramer said. “As soon as we saw what was happening, we alerted the commission, who acted swiftly. No person in New York City should feel threatened or be harassed and discriminated against based on where they were born, how they pray, or who they love — especially in their own homes. I am happy to see this resolved and to know that the residents will no longer have to live in fear, and can feel safe in our own community.”
The settlement required Milano and two other members from the board to step down and remove “all offensive posters, symbols and materials from the lobby. The condo unit owners elected five new board members last Thursday.
“We hope this settlement sends a strong message to housing providers citywide that New York City does not tolerate discrimination and harassment and that we will not hesitate to take immediate action when we learn of violations,” Assistant Commissioner for the Law Enforcement Bureau at the NYC Commission on Human Rights Sapna V. Raj said. “Housing providers, including condo boards, supers, landlords, and brokers have a legal obligation to follow the NYC Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origin, immigration status, race or any other protected category. We encourage anyone who is experiencing discrimination or harassment to report it to the commission by calling 718-722-3131.”
During its investigation, one tenant told the commission that Milano stopped her as she was walking to her apartment with her boyfriend, who is of Puerto Rican descent, demanding to see his passport and exclaiming that he “could be anyone illegal.” Another unit owner said that Milano left her a voicemail claiming to be Adolf Hitler and stating that “the grandmaster of the KKK is coming to the lobby.”
The same unit owner said that Milano also responded to her attempt to rent her apartment to a Latina woman by declaring, “She’s Spanish. They are low lifes and don’t pay the rent.” The condo board remains under investigation by New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“We are encouraged by the actions taken tonight by the NYC Commission on Human Rights with whom we have been working closely on this investigation,” Schneiderman said. “Our investigation into potential state civil rights violations and financial misconduct at the condominium continues.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr