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The Berserkonomics of One Rent-Stabilized Apartment Building


No. 12 Alexander Eiserloh  

Apt. 12
SIZE: one-br
CURRENT TENANT: under 2 years
RENT: $1,570
Alexander Eiserloh spent his summer perfecting the likeness of Johnny Depp in pirate garb: He is a design director for Disney books. A year and a half into a two-year lease, he pays $1,570 a month. His one-bedroom barely qualifies for the term—the bedroom’s king-size mattress fits flush against all four walls. Still, he’s managed to turn the small space into something modern and loftlike. He’s had help from Weinstein, who chipped in for a stylish low fridge and new floors, no strings attached. “I think it’s a part of her business plan to hold on to a quality tenant,” says Eiserloh. He also confides that the re-flooring had a practical benefit: It cut off the steady immigration of cockroaches from No. 7 below. “I don’t know how they are raising a family in an apartment this size,” he says with a shrug, petting a long-haired chihuahua named Frather. “I can’t even imagine having a relationship here.”

Apt. 12a
SIZE: two-br
CURRENT TENANT: 15 years
RENT: $1,193

Apt. 14
SIZE: three-br
CURRENT TENANT: over 10 years
RENT: $850
Fourteen came to the States in 1983 from what was then Czechoslovakia. A carpenter by trade, he partook of every misery the eighties-era East Village had to offer. “Look, there were a lot of temptations then,” says Weinstein. “But he eventually overcame them.” Thanks to a bit of matchmaking on her part, Fourteen, now clean but still gaunt, works for Twenty-four, who owns a fine-woodworking shop. When I saw Fourteen, he swung by the office to pay two months’ rent (in cash) and to inform Weinstein that he needed a new fridge. She offered him one for free. “No, I’ll pay for it,” he said grimly. “I damaged the old one.” Weinstein sighed. “Did you take an ice pick to it?” Fourteen hung his head. “Yup.” He also managed to get himself fined $100 for dropping a small plastic bag into the city trash bin. “I ran from the communists and now it’s the same here,” he murmured. Weinstein rolled her eyes and dialed a number. “Alberto, get the fridge from No. 27 and put it in No. 14.”

Apt. 15
SIZE: three-br
CURRENT TENANT: 10 years
RENT: About $1,300

Apt. 16
SIZE: two-br
CURRENT TENANT: 17 years
RENT: about $1,000

Apt. 17
SIZE: one-br
CURRENT TENANT: 18 years
RENT: under $700

Apt. 18
SIZE: two-br
CURRENT TENANT: 20 years
RENT: under $800
For the past twenty years, Kevin Malony has been running a theater out of this smart two-bedroom, with the living room as the office. Tweed Theater Works, which now stages high-profile camp extravaganzas starring Lypsinka and other drag luminaries, began in-house, so to speak, with a performance of the Dada classic The Gas Heart in No. 11. When Malony moved into the unit in 1983, heroin was hawked on the street openly, in rhythmical singsong: “H, works, Co-caine! H, works, Co-caine!” Malony was burglarized eleven times in his first year here. The last robbery involved a child lowered by rope into the window. Malony’s fidelity to the apartment is paying off—his rent runs under $800 a month. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that Tweed—a well-known, acclaimed theater company—wouldn’t last a year if I had to pay $2,000 in rent.”

Apt. 19
SIZE: three-br
RENT: undisclosed
Weinstein’s son Phil occupies the apartment. Over the past six years, Phil has also lived in No. 3 and No. 8, both of which are now deregulated. This pattern aroused my suspicion that Gail was using an obscure loophole to wedge out entrenched stabilization cases: A landlord can break a tenant’s lease when an immediate-family member is moving in. In No. 3, for instance, the tenant immediately preceding Phil lived there for over twenty years, and his rent likely never made it out of three-digit territory. The current, post-Phil tenant pays top dollar. The rule, however, applies only to the buildings held in an individual’s name (Gail’s is owned by her company), and all the reshuffling appears strictly voluntary. Gail says Phil plans to remain in No. 19 for the foreseeable future.

Apt. 20
SIZE: three-br
CURRENT TENANT: 7 years
RENT: about $1,300
Twenty, a dancer-choreographer, has lived here for seven years, one of them spent in litigation with Weinstein. She went on a fourteen-month rent strike over a complaint about heat, which Weinstein says was later proved phony. (The Division of Housing and Community Renewal has no violations associated with the apartment on file.) Eventually, Weinstein tried evicting her for harassment. Twenty also played the starring role in the bizarre gallery fisticuffs (see No. 7). Like any good litigant, Twenty declined to comment.

Apt. 21
SIZE: two-br
CURRENT TENANT: over 18 years
RENT: under $650

Apt. 22
SIZE: one-br
CURRENT TENANT: 1 month
RENT: about $2,000
No. 22 is the famous Madonna unit. A few years ago, the pop star brought a film crew to the building for a Behind the Music episode, flirted with Puerto Rican boys on the stoop, but had evident trouble remembering the exact spot where she used to live. While several tenants in other units still reel from the Material Girl’s proximity, Chris Murray, a former Condé Nast editor who has just moved out of this place and up one flight to No. 27, never gave it much thought. “The only object left here from her times is probably the water meter,” he says diffidently. Murray’s move, incidentally, was a sweet deal for all parties concerned: He got a break on the rent for the daily bit of extra exertion on the way up, and Weinstein, after putting in new floors and closets, got to deregulate this apartment the second Murray’s last suitcase made it up the stairs. The current occupant, whom Weinstein describes as a “nice girl,” forks over $400 more a month than he did.


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