Rego Park woman continues ongoing battle to stay in her apartment of over 40 years

Photos by Dean Moses

In 2019, Queens native Arlene Moskowitz was embroiled in an ongoing dispute with her landlord. In 2020, not much has changed.

Moskowitz has lived in her rent-controlled apartment in Rego Park since the early 1980s. The co-op unit is owned by Mew Hills LLC, a corporation operated by David and Amy Weber, which acquired the unit in 2002.

Moskowitz’s son, Howie Moskowitz, claims that the landlord is trying to push his mother out so they can raise the rent.

“If she were to move tomorrow, [the landlord] could double or triple the rent,” Howie said.

Howie said that in 2011, Arlene’s apartment took some damage due to a leak from an air conditioner in the bedroom. Though the Moskowitzes alerted the landlord about the leak, they say it took them months to go out there and check it out. Since then, there have been a number of issues with the apartment that the landlords have not fixed, or took weeks and months to address, including significant leaks, warped floors, and a faulty stove and refrigerator.

“A couple of years ago, we could smell gas in the apartment. We opened the window and got my mom out and called the fire department,” said Howie. “Thank god for them. They turned off the gas and deemed the stove defective. They found the leak below the apartment in the oil-gas conversion device. When the landlord sent someone to look at the stove, they wanted us to turn on the gas, which is illegal. We had to wait six weeks without a stove.”

Since November 2017, Moskowitz’s apartment has racked up 32 open violations, according to the Housing and Preservation Department website.

“It eventually led to court litigation,” said Howie. “The landlord doesn’t want the repairs done; he just wants to harass her and get her out. But that’s not going to happen.”

In June 2019, a new set of laws were passed in New York City that was meant to give more protections for renters, including a protection that made it so rent-stabilized apartments will remain rent-stabilized regardless of their rent level and the tenants’ income. Despite these protections for renters, Moskowitz said that the landlord is actively listing the apartment in newspapers and showing the apartment like it is available when it is not.

“In August 2017, the landlord put the apartment up for sale and people were trying to get in while repairs were being made,” said Howie. “In November 2019, people were coming back to try and see the apartment.”

Howie said that they have sent multiple cease and desist letters to the landlord and have tried to get an order of protection but have had no success. They have reached out to multiple city and state agencies for help.

Howie stated that he and his mother have had little help from the Queens district attorney’s office in regard to these incidents. The Moskowitz family was meant to have a hearing in May, which has since been delayed.

“[My mom’s] lease is set to expire in October 2020, and the landlord is supposed to offer her a lease renewal,” said Howie. “They won’t do the repairs unless ordered by a court. We’re in no man’s land right now.”

Attempts to reach Mew Hills LLC have been unsuccessful.

This story first appeared on amny.com.