Man Stayed at New York Hotel, Claimed To Own the Building – and a Court Agreed

New York’s rent control laws are truly bizarre and now a man who checked into a hotel and as a result claimed to own the hotel has even managed to get a housing court to agree.

Fortunately the hotel in question, the New Yorker Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, has managed to get a judge to temporarily block the guest from representing himself to banks as the owner of the property — but still couldn’t get the man’s deed vacated and the judge even suggested that he may now have the right to occupy the room he reserved.

In late May, a certain Mickey Barreto filed deed documents with the Department of Finance transferring ownership of the New Yorker Hotel to his nonprofit, Mickey Barreto Missions, and began presenting himself to lenders, tenants and city agencies as the property’s new owner … because the hotel’s “prior” owners, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (or the “Unification Church” for short), broke the law by denying him a rent-stabilized lease a year ago.

The man claims that by requesting a lease at the hotel, he became “a permanent tenant” in June 2018. He made a reservation for one night at a $149 room rate at the rent stabilized hotel. He wouldn’t leave. The hotel evicted him, but he went to housing court which ruled in his favor, giving him possession of “the subject premises.”

But he claims that the “subject premises” isn’t even the hotel room it’s the whole building because that building wasn’t subdivided “[s]o what affects that part of the building called [room] 2565, whatever happens in there, happens to the whole lot, the whole parcel.”

  • The hotel violated housing law by denying him a lease and kicking him out
  • He planned to use the building for a public purpose (he created a religious non-profit with his own name)
  • This makes him the owner of the building

And the city’s Department of Finance recorded a deed based on this argument. The man then “contacted the hotel’s restaurant tenants, lender M&T Bank” and Wyndham hotels which manages the property, and “demanded access to the hotel’s bank accounts.”

new yorker hotel
Credit: Wyndham

The hotel’s true owners — the Unification Church — got a temporary restraining order preventing him from representing himself or acting as the property’s owner. Nonetheless that judge acknowledges,

At most, Barreto has certain rights to occupy a particular room within the Hotel pursuant to the Rent Stabilization Law, but this clearly did not give him ownership of the entire Building.

Why is this even an issue? Because in New York hotels constructed before July 1, 1969 which cost less than $88 per week or $350 per month on May 31, 1968 are subject to rent stabilization laws. A person becomes a permanent tenant upon requesting a lease for six months or more. Hotels are barred from “prevent[ing] such occupant from becoming a permanent tenant.”

The New Yorker opened in 1930. It was a Hilton from 1953 to 1956 and again from 1967 to 1972. It was then closed, sold to the Unification Church, and not re-opened as a hotel until 1994. It became a Ramada in 2000, and a Wyndham in 2014.

Nikola Tesla spent his last ten years living in suite 3327 (where he died in 1943) and Muhammad Ali retreated there after his fight with Joe Frazier in March 1971.

The theory that being a tenant of a room in the hotel means that the guest can take possession of the whole hotel is the only part that’s actually brazen here under New York City law. The man reportedly offered to revert ownership to the Unification Church for $15 million.

(HT: Joe Brancatelli)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. JackE – when you pull your face out of your own derriere then you’ll see this is MAGA-land… or America.

  2. Welcome to New York City! And they wonder why the subways don’t work, they can’t run buses in circles and some public sector workers make $400,000+ a year

  3. This is why whenever people talk about universal healthcare, unions or government jobs like in Europe, it can never work effectively and fairly in the U.S. Why do you think the subways are a disaster, sanitation workers make 200K with overtime and malpractice insurance drives up the cost of medical care by 30%. The most dangerous people in society are not common criminals but judges, lawyers and the cops who enforce their rulings.

  4. I had a land lady running an illegal duplex in a rent controlled city. Housing laws said she needed a certificate on file with the housing office in order to collect rent. Except the place was illegal, so she couldn’t collect rent.

    Getting out of paying rent is one thing, but damn, I never thought about trying to take possession of the whole property. That would have been sweet!

  5. No wonder businesses are relocating in droves to Texas. This kind of bizarro legal shenanigans doesn’t happen there.

  6. @DFWSteve

    I wish you were right but if the wrong people move from states like NY and bring their poor qualities with them (or from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala or Haiti) to Texas it won’t be the case for long. Let’s hope the good people of Texas make it inhospitable for bad New Yorkers to live in Texas and discourage the wrong type.

  7. This is the yankee ingenuity that built this country. no wonder no country in the world trust USA to keep its word. The latest patsy was Iran which made a deal with USA thinking USA would honor it.

  8. If the unification church is to win and regain control of the Hotel, you can be assured that the judge was paid off. They made to many mistakes within their business and not subdividing to stand a chance keeping it.

  9. I think the real headline should be tax exempt church owns downtown hotel that it leases to wyndam. Sounds like BS to me.

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