Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

The Double Life of a Ludlow Street Landlord

After the fire, says Mele, “we felt: Enough is enough. We may never know who actually set it, but it motivated us to get an eviction. It freaked us out, but it didn’t make sense that Mark would set a fire to get one tenant out. It seemed more like a drug problem, and it all came down to this one person.” Other sources, unrelated to this case, have also claimed that Marx used heroin, but she flatly denies using drugs and laughs at the hypodermic story. “It’s just not true,” she says quietly. “People in the building have an ulterior motive. My apartment is one of the most renovated in the whole building, and I suspect Glass promised someone my apartment if he could get me out.”

For the next few months, Marx and Glass battled through their lawyers. Marx threatened Glass with a harassment suit, and Glass pressed for her eviction through Ben Kaplan, who says Glass is the least litigious landlord he has ever represented. In May, Marx met Kaplan at landlord-tenant court for a final confrontation, but Kaplan decided -- “on the spot,” he says -- not to go ahead with the eviction. “As soon as I spoke to her, I knew this case could not be won in a million years. We had no witnesses, and what she told me about the fire made me realize we couldn’t win. It took five minutes of talking to her to realize that I found her to be totally credible. She seemed serious, telling the truth. She’s no junkie.”

Five days after the fire at Marx’s apartment, the police picked up a suspect based on an identification made by another tenant at 42 Clinton. It didn’t take long for Juan Hernandez Jr., known around Ludlow Street as Peewee, to confess. He had set the fire, but he was working for someone else -- Eddie Almestica. Coincidentally, the cops already had Eddie in custody on charges of attempted robbery. Eddie had been working as a bouncer at the Ludlow Street Bar and didn’t like the way some of the patrons were behaving, so he forced them into the street, hitting them up for money and sending one to Bellevue for stitches. After a few days’ custody at Rikers Island, Eddie Almestica was released on bail -- $2,000 of which had been pledged by Mark Glass.

On Ludlow Street, Eddie and his brother Fernando were well known for running the street’s heroin trade. Crazy Eddie, now 30, was considered a loose cannon, no doubt partly for his prodigious use of angel dust. Short, fat, and muscular, with a taste for flashy gold, fancy track suits, and MAC-10 machine guns, he has been in and out of the criminal justice system for the past ten years. In 1988, he was arrested for narcotics possession and sentenced to five years’ probation; in 1990, he was busted for selling drugs and resisting arrest, was sentenced to two to four years, and did a yearlong stretch at Downstate Correctional; that same year, he served another 30 days for resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon, this time after dancing over the roofs of parked cars on Ludlow Street; and in April 1995, Eddie was arrested yet again for resisting arrest after what one law-enforcement official called a “high-speed car chase,” but he was given only a desk-appearance ticket.

For more than fifteen years, the Almesticas had been selling heroin on Ludlow Street and in the South Bronx, Brooklyn, and East Harlem. (They kept their stash in Peewee’s Ludlow Street apartment, hidden under his bed in a tank used for his pet snakes.) But in October 1995, a joint DEA/NYPD task force finally put the brothers out of business in a dramatic raid replete with wiretaps, no-knock search warrants, and a helicopter hovering over Ludlow Street. Eddie, Fernando, Peewee, and the rest of the gang all pleaded guilty to charges of possession and distribution of heroin. Under the federal mandatory-sentencing guidelines enacted by Congress in 1984, Eddie was facing a minimum of 40 years in prison -- not to mention the fact that he was already on probation for a previous offense -- yet Judge Robert Patterson chose to release Eddie on his own recognizance.

Later, he seems to have bartered some information about the fire in Marx’s apartment -- and Glass’s involvement -- in hopes of reduced prison time. He began cooperating with the police and soon started wearing a wire; during this time, the D.A. alleges, Glass hatched the plot to murder Crawford and Marx.

According to new charges that have recently been added to the case, Glass and Almestica had been working together at least as far as back as May 1996, when Glass allegedly hired him to torch an apartment at 172 Ludlow. But Almestica and Glass had known each other even longer than that. Through most of the eighties, Eddie and his father lived in 170 Ludlow; his father was even the building’s super for several years. For much of that time, their relationship seems to have been antagonistic. At one point, says Glass’s lawyer, the landlord was so concerned about Eddie’s drug trafficking, he gave Eddie and his father money to move out. By 1995, they had at least evolved what Glass’s lawyer calls an “entente cordiale: You stay away from my buildings, and I’ll leave you alone.”

Whether Glass is found guilty will eventually come down to what he said to Eddie Almestica on those tapes. Are they, as Glass’s lawyers will say, merely ambiguous conversations about money or, as the D.A. will say, a conspiracy to kill two tenants? “A real streetwise landlord wouldn’t even talk to Eddie,” says Gadi Gilan. “Mark has a big mouth, he likes to talk the talk, but he’s just not seasoned enough to know how to deal with a scumbag. This guy is a convicted felon. He’s got everything to gain; you’ve got everything to lose. If he talks to you, you look the other way. I guess that’s not what happened.”

At Glass’s last bail hearing, a new assistant D.A., Robert Seiden, had taken over the case. He told the court that “this is really a case of a man with multiple identities and, I submit, multiple personalities. We really don’t know under what circumstances he will show himself to be who he really is or how we could ever find out who he really is.” Glass may be well liked in Brooklyn, said Seiden, “but when he goes to the Lower East Side and he runs his business, we know from the witnesses we’ve spoken to that he is a very dangerous man.”

Glass’s side also thinks the case comes down to questions of character. What motive could he have had to kill Marx and Crawford? His house in Manhattan Beach is hardly the $2 million mansion the prosecutors have claimed. “Maybe if I was a gambler and I went to nightclubs and I had a big nut to fill every week,” Glass says from prison. “But we lived for many years and still do in a very straight way. I don’t buy things I can’t afford. I don’t go anywhere I don’t feel comfortable. We bought our house with wedding presents. I’ve never bought a new car in my life. Last year I bought an ’88 Volvo for $1,800. My wife hates the Skylark, but I’ve had Skylarks for twenty years. It’s just who I am.”