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Tenants Accuse Landlord Of Trying To Muscle Them Out Of East Village Building

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's tenants versus their landlord in an East Village building.

Residents say he is trying to intimidate and harass them, in an effort to force them out.

The tenants at 444 E. 13th St. and their advocates have had enough of what they called illegal harassment from a new landlord who wants to force out rent stabilized residents.

"They are threatening them with calling immigration, with throwing them out of the building, telling them if they don't take the buyouts now, they'll get nothing and they'll be out in the street," Carlina Rivera told CBS2's Sonia Rincon.

Families in nine apartments are holding out and suing. They said the landlord has been sending agents to pressure them in person. They said they secretly recorded one.

"If it were up to the owners they'd just, like I said, drop dynamite on the whole building and everybody will figure it out," an individual said to represent the landlord can be heard saying.

They said the owners are letting the building fall apart and violations are piling up. The gas has been shut off.

"The landlord when we told him about it, he said it wasn't his problem," Cesar Bello said.

It's been a problem for more than a month. Families are using electric hot plates to cook. Bello said the landlord won't fix it, but did send a note with a bottle of wine.

"Just to say sorry, is what the letter said, and it was nothing in his power. It was all Con Edison's fault," Bello said.

Con Ed said it found a dangerous condition, not unlike what led to the explosion in the East Village in March, and the landlord has yet to prove that it's safe to turn the gas back on.

The lawsuit includes a list of 85 HPD violations.

There's also a stop work order from the buildings department. A ground level building space was boarded up after tenants claimed the landlord was demolishing the area illegally to make room for a restaurant or retail space.

The tenants attorney Stephanie Rudolph said the tenants have been told they have to prove legal immigration status, and that is discrimination.

"These tenants have been here, for most of them decades, so in order to stay in their apartments they absolutely, positively do not have to produce any kind of identification. Under rent stabilization these are their apartments. These are their homes," Rudolph said, "Ownership change is completely irrelevant."

When CBS2 went to the office address for owner Raphael Toledano and Goldmark Property Management, no one was available to answer any questions. Neither has responded to a request for comment.

Con Ed told CBS2 that inspectors will be at the building for a follow-up on Friday.

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