Posted by Gary Young on November 25, 2001 at 18:48:46:
I live in what is probably an illegal arrangement -- my landlord fixed up the basement of his apartment building (>6 units) and rents out 11 rooms. They are really just rooms; we all share two common bathrooms. For the most part, the arrangement suits me just fine, because it's relatively cheap.
However, our super, who lives in the basement room right next to mine, is mentally unbalanced and has a violent temper. He likes the idea of being "in charge" and will yell, make threats, and even get physical if he feels he's not getting the "respect" he deserves.
Here's a partial catalog of the things I've seen or heard about from other tenants:
Super spitting, making burping or farting noises as tenants pass; punching a hole in the wall next to one tenant's room; removing hallway lights to make the corridor dark and frightening; following me home from the subway raving at me and throwing "air" punches; listening for footsteps and then pulling his door open just as a tenant passes; banging on common walls; taking out his frustration at a malfunctioning lock by throwing it at a tenant's door. The list goes on and on. This guy is the first person I've known who literally foams at the mouth. The police have been called on several occasions, but usually do nothing or give out misinformation (I was told I could get a restraining order against him without an arrest, and then learned that was untrue after waiting in a line for four hours.)
I've written to the landlord about the super on three or four occasions and have made phone calls to him, as have other tenants. I think the landlord knows this guy is psycho and probably hired him for that very reason -- he wants to drive out a tenant upstairs. Shortly after I moved in, the super woke me up with loud music one morning. He told me that he blasted his stereo to agitate the upstairs tenant (who has mental illness) and then calls EMS, reporting a suicide attempt. I know that the landlord has tried cutting off water to the upstairs tenant, among other tactics.
For the most part, the super has stayed away from me since I wrote a letter to the landlord threatening court action. However, the super never seems to be happy unless he is harassing someone, and currently picks on one of my neighbors, a women of slight stature. (In fact, he usually picks on women.)
By the way, he's a lousy super -- rarely cleans the bathrooms, hasn't been able to fix a lock on the outer gate, etc.
Last week the super assaulted that tenant (i.e., got angry and began choking her). The police did nothing. She has asked me to help her. I would be happy to oblige, but am short on information.
I was hoping someone on this list could tell me --
1) will a lawyer be willing to take on her case (e.g., a civil case against the landlord for harassment)?
2) can someone recommend a good lawyer?
3) where does she need to go to file criminal charges against the super? (the building is in Brooklyn).
4) can I report code violations -- e.g., non-working lock -- without fear of being evicted from a possibly illegal situation?
5) I plan to contact the lawyer or guardian ad litem of the tenant upstairs if I can find out who it is. If the upstairs tenant can't tell me, is there some way I can find out using her name and address (e.g., in housing court, where the landlord apparently has an eviction proceeding going against her)? Is there any downside to telling her lawyer about the acts of harassment I've witnessed?
6) I've found out from the Department of Corrections website that the super has done time for second-degree robbery (which probably means he was armed). Is there some way I can find out if he has a history of other arrests, convictions or psychiatric hospitalizations? Is the landlord required to do such a background check?
7) I'd welcome any other suggestions.
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