Law Project Takes Action to Stop Illegal Rentals

Goddard Riverside Law Center staffers rallied with tenants, advocates and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal outside Rosenthal’s office.

Goddard Riverside Law Project took action on Tuesday to stop the landlord of an Upper West Side building from illegally renting out apartments as hotel rooms.

Imperial Court, a Single Room Occupancy building at 307 West 79th Street, cannot legally rent out units for less than 30 days at a time. Nonetheless, landlord Michael Edelstein frequently rents rooms on a nightly or weekly basis. This means the building is overstuffed with more people than it can handle, and tenants have to wait longer for everything from an empty elevator to a needed repair.

"We’ve worked with the tenants in the building for over a decade and we’ve seen the effect that Mr. Edelstein’s illegal business has," said Dan Evans, a tenant organizer for the Goddard Riverside Law Project. "Enough is enough. This is a home, not a hotel."

"All of a sudden your building has triple the amount of people that should be there, and the staff that are hired to help you with the things you need are too busy to help," said Richard Amelius, a kindergarten teacher who has lived at Imperial Court since 2005.

He added that the tourists bring noise, smoke, alcohol and rowdy behavior with them. "I have witnessed everything from drug use to robbery to confrontations to prostitution on my floor alone."

Today’s filing, on which the Urban Justice Center is a co-counsel, is just the latest step in a long-running effort to get Edelstein to comply with the law. State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal recalled renting a room at Imperial Court several years ago, with help from the Law Project, in order to prove that illicit occupancies were going on. 

"Mr. Edelstein has tried for years to circumvent the law," Rosenthal proclaimed. "He’s been a pioneer in the illegal renting of permanent residences."

That’s going to change, she added: "If he won’t do it voluntarily we will force him to through the courts."