By Bill Parry
An Astoria resident is taking her landlord to court next month claiming she is the victim of tenant harassment at her Steinway Street apartment building where she has lived since 2003.
Cherie Ross, 41, a freelance TV news producer, alleged in a 2016 complaint that Louis and Antoinette Ciccoto, the owners of FS Marino Realty, refused to accept her monthly rent as part of a scheme to have her evicted.
Ross also claimed in her filing that she was the last rent-stabilized tenant in her building at 20-70 Steinway St., as other tenants had left on their own rather than fight the landlords.
“Many of my neighbors were undocumented people from the Middle East and North Africa and didn’t want to take any chances with immigration so they simply moved out under the cover of night rather than face the chance of deportation,” Ross said. “This type of thing has been happening all over Astoria for at least the last five years since the neighborhood exploded. My fear is this will only get worse and accelerate with the arrival of Amazon in Long Island City. People just see it as a cash grab with people coming in with higher incomes, why not go with them.”
Louis Ciccoto declined to comment on the case.
Ross said her problems began in 2012 when her refrigerator died and the landlords refused to replace it and her problems escalated in 2015 when the Cicotto’s began refusing to accept her rent payments.
“What I did was put the payments in an Escrow account so they couldn’t evict me,” Ross said.
The African-American filed a complaint with the city Commission on Human Rights claiming racial bias but the case was closed due to “administrative convenience.”
State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, whose office had been monitoring Ross’ problems since 2013, appealed to the commission on her constituent’s behalf, requesting a review of her suspended case.
“It is critical that we safeguard tenants rights in order for New Yorkers to live in comfortable harassment free environments,” Simotas wrote in a 2018 letter
The Commission would not reassign the case. An administration closure determination still affords the complainant the right to pursue their claim in another venue, according to a source. In this case, the complainant was referred to housing court by the Commission.
Ross sought help with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the New York State Attorney General and finally appealed to Mayor Bill de Blasio during an Astoria town hall last July.
“Mayor de Blasio promised to do everything he could, but I never heard anything from City Hall,” Ross said.
Now she will have her day in Housing Court on Jan. 29, when her case against FS Marino Realty goes to trial.
“Ms. Cherie Rose has faced numerous instances of harassment and abuse of power from her landlord. This is sadly not uncommon for tenants in rent-stabilized apartments,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “Tenants’ rights must be prioritized over profit. Tenants should not have to live in fear of reporting issues to their landlord and should expect those issues to be resolved amicably and in a timely manner.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr