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.”
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)