Angry New Yorker

Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Crime and Real Estate

Had the classic work of literature been flipped around and written in NYC, it's title would have been more appropriately Crime and Real Estate, rather than Crime and Punishment, because nothing drives people crazier, or to greater desperation than real estate in New York City.

The following unfortunate news story was expected for ages by those who live here... the only surprise is the scenario hasn't happened sooner, or more often: namely, a landlord driven to the financial and psychological edge by a rent control tenant paying a laughable pittance in rent finally takes matters into his own hands. But there are some very suspicious, and patently incorrect items in the story.

For starters, the reporter Mr./Ms.? Kilgannon, states "[the father of the tenants attacked] said he and his wife, May, moved into the Ithaca Street building in 1964 and had always paid $400 a month in rent." I don't think so. $400 a month rent in 1964, at a time when a good yearly salary was, perhaps, $5000. I'd double-check that at The New York Times.

Second, if the rent was $400 in 1964 -- which it clearly wasn't -- there's no way it would remain $400 forty years later. Two major problems with rent control in NYC (not to be confused with rent stabilization) is that rents for rent control units can only rise a small set amount based on the original pre-1971 rent amount AND that people, like these sons, can "inherit" a rent control apartment when they clearly should not and are then subsidized by the landlord and other tenants.
Queens Landlord Convicted in Plot to Kill Two Tenants

December 8, 2004

A Queens landlord was found guilty yesterday of trying to plot the murder of two tenants paying $400 a month for an apartment in his building, so that he could rent out their apartment to new tenants for at least $1,500 a month.

A jury in State Supreme Court in Queens found the landlord, Juan Basagoitia, 50, guilty of hiring two other tenants in the building to kill William Lavery, 35, and his brother, David Lavery, 40, who had lived in the three-bedroom apartment on the third floor since childhood.

The brothers, who were badly injured in the attack but survived, legally assumed the lease in recent years from their father, George Lavery, who first took the apartment in 1964 at the same rent.

* * *

After their arrests, they told the police that Mr. Basagoitia had agreed to pay them $2,500 to kill the brothers. Mr. Basagoitia, 50, a Bolivian immigrant who bought the building in 1997, was then arrested also.

* * *

He said he and his wife, May, moved into the Ithaca Street building in 1964 and had always paid $400 a month in rent. Mr. Basagoitia bought the building, a brownstone, in 1996, he said, and immediately began having a lawyer send eviction letters to the Laverys.

Mr. Lavery said his sons legally assumed the lease in 1997, but were harassed repeatedly by Mr. Basagoitia, at one point being taken to housing court. The apartment was ransacked and burglarized several times, he said, and they suspected Mr. Basagoitia each time, he said.

Read the entire story here.

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