NYPost Eviction Story Boots the Facts

Bennett Baumer Jul 9, 2008

The Rupert Murdoch owned New York Post is notorious for spinning facts to meet its right-wing world view. But is it also missing the facts?

Today’s screaming headline “HOME STREET HOME, Absentee bum booted from apt.” is an article about an evicted Hell’s Kitchen tenant, Michael Tsitsires, and omits a major part of this long-standing tenant-landlord conflict – the building was vacated by the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) because of hundreds of hazardous building conditions!


The back story that the Post neglected to tell is that Tsitsires’ building, 400 West 57 Street in Manhattan (a.k.a. the Windermere) has been vacant since September 2007 because the FDNY deemed the building unsafe for habitation. Furthermore, the real absentee character in this story is the landlord – Toa Construction and its owner Masako Yamagata – who has allowed 649 housing code violations to accumulate over years of neglect. The building fell into such disrepair over the decades that of the 150 single-room occupancy rental units in the land marked building, only six were occupied at the time of the FDNY’s 2007 vacate order.

Windermere tenant Dennis Neville corresponded with New York Times reporter Tony Ramirez about the building’s awful living conditions before he died months after being vacated from his home.

“Prior to the vacate order” on Sept. 19, Mr. Neville wrote, “we were without electricity for a week, because they didn’t pay the bill.” “The sprinklers weren’t working, the powers that be weren’t doing anything,” Mr. Neville wrote, adding that the vacant apartments were full of refuse that had not been carted away. (See the below link)


As an organizer at Housing Conservation Coordinators, a Hell’s Kitchen based housing rights organization, working with the tenants, I had visited the building prior to the FDNY vacate order and part of the “refuse” Mr. Neville mentioned was layer upon layer of pigeon excrement.

Reporting and facts aside, the Post does make sure it hits certain right-wing agenda points. Though court papers document Mr. Tsitsires’ mental health issues, the paper uses the Reaganesque “homeless-by-choice” to describe Tsitsires and his companion Alberta Lang. “Homeless-by-choice” even though there’s a vacate order that prevents anyone from living in a building with a long history of housing code violations. The city housing agency’s website lists 209 Class “C” violations – the most serious of code infractions – that date as far back as 1981.

The beleaguered group of Windermere tenants is currently suing the landlord to do the repairs necessary to lift the vacate order and allow them move back in. It is still waiting on a decision from a housing court judge in that case.

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