NY Post: Rent-Controlled Tenants Say Landlord Tries to Oust Them With Pesticides
MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

The New York Post on Sunday wrote about an Upper West Side landlord who’s been spraying pesticides to force rent-controlled tenants from their homes. The Legal Aid Society is working with these residents on a possible lawsuit.




NY Post
Rent-Controlled Tenants Say Landlord Tries to Oust Them With Pesticides
By Bill Sanderson
March 12, 2017

Residents of an Upper West Side building say their landlords treat them like roaches and rats by trying to chase them from their apartments with pesticide.

Late at night, employees at Dexter House — a single-room-occupancy building at 345 W. 86th St. just off Riverside Drive — allegedly walk the building’s winding hallways spreading a poisonous mix of pesticide and deodorizer near the apartments of longtime rent-controlled tenants.

“I believe they want to kill me. I have a bad breathing problem,” nonagenarian Helen Ball complained last year to the state division of Homes and Community Renewal.

“I strangle if I lie on my back,” said Ball’s handwritten complaint. “It’s difficult to eat or drink . . . I always liked the management . . . I don’t know why they now want to kill me.”

Ball eventually moved.

Another tenant, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Post she caught a man spraying under her door at 2 a.m. and suffered rashes and breathing problems presumably from the mystery chemicals.

“I started to get weird odors,” she said. “I started to get severe headaches. I started to get nauseous.”

After seeing several doctors, she found an ear, nose and throat specialist.

“He said it was something I was inhaling,” the woman said.

The tenants’ claims gained credence when a state Department of Environmental Conservation inspector found pesticides stored in the building during visits in September and November.

The inspector says Dexter House employees are not certified to use the chemicals and did not keep daily records of their use — in violation of state law.

Legal Aid Society lawyers, who have seen landlords use all kinds of underhanded strategies to rid their buildings of tenants they dislike, are astonished by the allegations. Adan Soltren, who is trying to organize Dexter House tenants for a lawsuit, said if building residents’ claims are true, they are among “the more sinister kinds of tactics I’ve heard of.”

For years Dexter House residents have accused lead landlord Jay Wartski of seeking to get rid of them so their rooms can be put to more lucrative use.

They live cheaply in one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods, on the Upper West Side near Riverside Park. A five-story single-family town house next door to Dexter House was put on the market in 2013 with an asking price of $50 million.

Julie Hanlon, a Dexter House tenant for 25 years who brought the pesticide allegations to officials, pays $308 per month in rent.

Wartski has a long history as a landlord feared by the city’s poor. In the mid-1980s he reportedly spent 30 days at Rikers ­Island for refusing to repair hazardous conditions at an SRO he owned on Chambers Street in Tribeca.

Wartski, his brother, Allen, and his father, Jerry, were labeled by the Village Voice in 1984 as the city’s “most heartless” SRO landlords. Tenant organizers accused Wartski of moving drug dealers and “goons” into one of the family’s buildings, which included 25 rooms used by prostitutes.

Dexter House’s manager, Robert Goicochea, said the pesticides found by the state inspector were used to provide good service to tenants.

“Whenever a tenant would ask to have his room sprayed, my ­super would go upstairs and spray in the room with any product he got in the hardware store,” Goicochea said.

The state inspector found a spray can of Gentrol, a pesticide used to combat bedbugs and cockroaches, which under state law building workers may not use or possess. Gentrol’s active ingredient is a chemical called hydroprene. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, little is known about its effect on humans.

The inspector also found three other containers of pesticides advertised as capable of killing bedbugs. They were legal for the building to possess, but not legal for employees to use, a state official said.

Goicochea acknowledged the issues raised by the state inspector: “He notified us we shouldn’t be spraying. He said, ‘OK, you guys have to go and get ­certified.’ ”

Wartski’s lawyer, Jeffrey Seid­en, said there is “no validity” to claims that building workers are trying to chase people from the building with pesticides.

“There has been no attempt to evict anybody through the use of illegal chemicals,” Seiden said.

But Hanlon says some tenants of the 16-story, 270-unit building stuff paper under their doors nightly to keep fumes from seeping in.

“What they did to us is a horror show,” she said.