Hell’s Kitchen Residents Living in Dangerous Building Suffer as Legal Case Stalls

What happens when an occupied building falls into disrepair?

Tenants of 410 W. 46th St. in Midtown Manhattan say conditions in their building have only worsened in the three months since a housing court judge toured it as part of a civil lawsuit brought by the Housing Preservation Department.

The department is seeking to have the property declared dangerous so it can take custody from landlords and rehabilitate the squalid building. This is a rare action. According to court records, only a handful of these cases are filed each year.

Several tenants of 410 W. 46th St., speaking anonymously for fear of harassment from building management, said they are living in unsafe conditions while they wait for the judge’s ruling. “No heat, no hot water, a flood in the hallway,” said one. “How did the city let this happen?”

The building and its neighbor, 412 W. 46th St., are both designated as rent-stabilized, a type of affordable housing that caps the amount landlords can raise rent each year. They are owned by West Coast-based landlord Daniel Shalom and his company Highpoint Associates. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams named one of Highpoint Associates’ affiliates, Johnathan Santana, as the worst landlord in New York City in 2022.

According to the Public Advocate’s office, Shalom and Santana’s properties have hundreds of open violations. Court records and tenants attest to years of dangerous conditions at 410 W. 46th St., including squatters, fires, ceiling leaks, pest infestations, heat and water outages, broken windows and doors and unattended garbage.

Court records also show that in 2016, conditions at 412 W. 46th St. got so bad that the New York City Department of Buildings issued a vacate order, displacing long-term tenants, some of whom had lived there for decades. It now sits empty. William Johnson, a neighbor, said the boarded-up facade is “an eyesore.”

As of September, the bottom three floors of 410 W. 46th St. were also empty due to unsafe living conditions. Their paint-chipped doors are padlocked and water damage is visible on the ceiling and floors of the entrance hallway. “It’s like in a horror movie,” said one resident, who lives in the still-occupied upper floors.

If the Housing Preservation Department’s case is successful, an administrator will be appointed to fix the property. According to the New York City Housing Court website, such an action is warranted if dangerous conditions persist on a property for more than five days. Court records show that 410 W. 46th St. has had unaddressed violations for years.

The case began in 2021. There has been no new movement since June, when housing court judge Norma Jean Jennings visited the address.

“I don’t understand why the judge hasn’t made a ruling. This should be a slam dunk,” one tenant said.

Marisa Redanty, a local activist and former Hell’s Kitchen District Leader agreed.

“The court taking this long is reprehensible, and there should be an investigation,” Redanty said.

While some tenants said they felt let down by everyone involved—the housing department, politicians, lawyers—Redanty placed the blame mainly on local elected officials.

“It’s a dereliction of duty,” she said.

Neither the housing department nor the office of City Councilmember Erik Bottcher, who represents Hell’s Kitchen, responded to multiple requests for comment.

State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said in an email that while he remains “hopeful for the successful resolution” of the case, “no tenant should have to wait so long for a decision while living in life-threatening conditions.”

As they await a ruling, residents of 410 W. 46th St. are tired of fighting. Over the past several years, some have held press conferences, written articles, testified for the housing department or brought their own legal action against building management. But as time goes on without a lasting solution, they feel demoralized and alone.

“We were abandoned from the start,” one tenant said. “We are on our own.”

About the author(s)

Emily Injeian is a journalist covering housing and New York City.