The Double Life of a Ludlow Street Landlord

They came for Mark Glass at 9 a.m. on Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. It was October 1, a warm, windy autumn day – rent day – and a stream of tenants was already buzzing at the door of Glass’s tiny storefront real-estate office at 159 Ludlow on the Lower East Side. Except for the early holiday closing – Glass, a devout Orthodox Jew, had to get home before sundown – it was no different from any other first-of-the-month.

Detectives Kennedy and Bush from the NYPD Robbery Squad seemed miffed that Glass wasn’t at work yet. His office manager, Jana Eitel, a plump, streetwise Byelorussian émigré who speaks six languages, each with the same accent, tried to joke with them as she dialed her boss on his cell phone – “Are you both ex-presidents?” – but the cops weren’t amused, and Glass did not pick up. Instead, they had a question for her: “Did you know a tenant named Brigitte Marx?”

“Of course,” she said. Ever since the paper store Eitel had worked for down the block closed five years ago, she’d managed all fifteen of Uses Realty’s properties, mostly clustered on Ludlow and Clinton Streets. She knew all the tenants – which ones were troublemakers, which ones always paid their rent on time. Word had filtered through Ludlow Street that Marx had been killed, but there were no details. “Terrible thing,” she sighed, cracking open her first pack of Virginia Slims for the day. “Brigitte was a good girl. Do you know what happened?” The cops were fuzzy. All they seemed to know was that Marx had been beaten and murdered somewhere uptown. They needed to get into the apartment. Could she have Mr. Glass call them when he got in?

A little after eleven, Mark Glass, an athletic 44-year-old with wire-frame glasses and a trim, graying beard, pulled up to the office in his battered cobalt-blue ’72 Skylark, a $300 jalopy that was his pride and joy. His holiday davening at the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center had taken him a little longer than expected, and he was running late. Eitel told him the cops wanted him over at 42 Clinton. Glass slapped a Yankees cap over his yarmulke and ran out the door.

The cops were already outside when Glass arrived with his maintenance man. Glass led them up the crumbling stairs to the third floor, through a dimly lit corridor decorated with an old Jean-Luc Godard poster, to apartment 13. The cops had clearly already been there; yellow crime-scene tape zigzagged across the door. Glass fumbled for the keys and opened the apartment. Marx had meticulously renovated the tenement, skim-coating the walls and refinishing the floors. “Do you mind if I use the phone?” asked one of the cops. “It’s not mine,” said Glass, “but I don’t see why not.” The cop made his call and then walked over to the landlord. “Mr. Glass, I’m sorry, but I have some bad news,” he said. “You’re gonna have to come with us for some questioning in connection with the death of Brigitte Marx.” And then the cop unhitched his handcuffs.

In fact, Brigitte Marx was not dead. At that moment, she was in a luxury hotel uptown, courtesy of the NYPD. Just days before Glass’s arrest, the cops had recorded him on audiotape allegedly paying a hit man the final installment on a contract to kill her and her next-door neighbor. According to the Manhattan district attorney, Glass had first hired the hit man to burn Marx, a 37-year-old German freelance graphic designer, and her next-door neighbor, Bernell Crawford, an unemployed black waiter in his mid-thirties, out of their apartments; when that failed, he had taken out a contract to execute them with a lethal overdose of heroin. The hit man was part of an elaborate NYPD sting – but Glass didn’t know that yet.

While the D.A.’s office slowly finalized its complaint against him, Glass sat in a holding pen at the Manhattan South Robbery Squad on 12th Street and University Place. He was in a state of shock, and all he could think about was getting home to Manhattan Beach by five o’clock, when his family would turn off the phones and leave for the synagogue. The cops let him call a lawyer, bought him a kosher sandwich, and allowed his son Mordechai to deliver a prayer book, but there was no way he would be released before sundown.

In Glass’s wallet, officers found $9,000 in cash, and credit cards in the name of Alvin Weiss, Avraham Weiss, Abraham Weiss, and Mordechai Weiss. “Who’s Weiss?” the cops wanted to know. “It’s me,” said Glass, his voice rising in an exasperated whine. He explained that his real name was Alvin Marcus Weiss – an English version of his Hebrew name, Avraham Weiss – but that in secular life and business, he went by the name Mark Glass. It was one of the many little compromises that protected him and his family from what he called the chozzerai – the trash – on the street: a “good covering name,” he called it. But the police weren’t buying it.

Meanwhile, at Glass’s home in Manhattan Beach, his family was just reciting the blessing over the wine for the Rosh Hashanah meal when six plainclothes officers knocked at the door with a search warrant. His wife was incensed. “Isn’t there any way this can be done tomorrow?” she pleaded, but the lead detective claimed he was working under strict orders from the top: “Robert Morganthau told me we had to do this tonight, and do it by nine o’clock.”

While the family continued its dinner, the police began tearing through Glass’s tiny office, a dusty tangle of old 8-tracks, Yankees memorabilia, and sporting equipment. They found three vintage .22-caliber rifles, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, a .22-caliber Ruger pearl-handled pistol, several hundred dollars in gold Krugerrands, and numerous pieces of identification, including bond certificates, bank statements, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses for New York, London, and Israel – in every name but Mark Glass. Who was this guy?

Six months later, Glass still remains in protective custody at the Brooklyn House of Detention, and inexplicably, no trial date has yet been set. It is an extraordinary amount of time for a suspect to be held in a case in which there has been no physical harm, but the D.A. believes that Glass is a violent and greedy landlord who tried to murder two tenants guilty of nothing more than demanding their rights under the city’s rent laws. Still, some question such an elaborate sting against a popular landlord who has operated in a tough, down-at-the-heels neighborhood for two decades without a problem – especially the use of a convicted drug dealer trying to avoid a life sentence. And what about Brigitte Marx? Is she a glamorous young graphic artist who is the innocent victim of a devil landlord’s venality or a troubled woman with a history of drug abuse? Finally, who is the man the police are still holding: Alvin Weiss, the mensch of Manhattan Beach, or Mark Glass, a would-be murderer who just could not resist the temptations of Ludlow Street’s darker side?

A week after his arrest, Glass was brought in manacles from Rikers Island to State Supreme Court in Manhattan for a bail hearing, and every bench in the 150-seat courtroom was filled. Glass’s family and friends, conservatively attired Orthodox Jews, jostled for seats with tenants from his buildings, a phalanx of Lower East Side hipsters dressed in black. A rabbi with a flowing white beard and a streimel sat ramrod-straight watching the proceedings with a disapproving tsk. Glass’s wife and two sons buried their noses in prayer books. “It’s like Alice in Wonderland,” she told me. “I keep looking for the mirror.” She was hopeful her husband would be home for Yom Kippur, but Assistant D.A. Francine James was adamant that Glass be held without bail.

Glass’s attorney, Martin Adelman, a chain-smoking criminal lawyer with a penchant for quoting Thomas à Becket, cried foul. For 24 years, he said, Alvin Weiss had lived in the same house and run the same business. Here was a man with an extraordinary history of stability and community ties; he was an active member of synagogues on Rivington Street and in Manhattan Beach, where he supervised a basketball game with neighborhood kids every Saturday night. Adelman offered as a bond Glass’s $600,000 house, $50,000 in cash, his family’s passports, and a complete waiver of his future extradition rights from any country – but bail was still denied.

Glass’s tenants were also bewildered by the D.A.’s vehemence. The man the New York Post had branded a “devil landlord” wasn’t the Mark Glass they knew. In a city where nearly every tenant has a horror story to tell about a landlord – and vice versa – Glass was remarkably well liked, often letting tenants go for months without paying rent. Killing a tenant for the measly 10 percent rent hike a renovated apartment can fetch hardly seemed to be his modus operandi.

“He really is the hassle-free landlord,” says Nancy Brooks Brody, an artist who has rented apartments and studios in Glass’s buildings since she was 17. “If I was broke and I couldn’t pay the rent, he wouldn’t call me up, wouldn’t harass me. It’d be ‘Hey, Nance, when are you gonna come see me?’ He wouldn’t even mention the rent.” Other tenants told similar stories. Nearly all had at some time or other fallen behind and were grateful to Glass for not embarrassing them about it. “It’s a regular thing down here,” says Chris Bongirne, a film producer who lives with his wife and their baby two flights down from Marx at 42 Clinton. “People are out of a job or working on a project, and they just catch up when they can. If he wanted to flip her apartment so bad, why didn’t he torch my place? I pay less than she does. Better yet, he could have killed the guy who lives upstairs. He’s so crazy, the New York Press even put him on its cover. He hasn’t paid rent in ten years. He says there’s a CIA conspiracy against him. They’ve been in landlord-tenant court for years.”

At the bail hearing, Assistant D.A. James urged the judge not to be swayed by the large crowd supporting the defendant. The case against him was strong and substantial; he was a “violent and dangerous individual,” charged with four counts of conspiracy, arson, and attempted murder. If convicted, he would go to jail for the rest of his life. Mark Glass, she said, “was much more than a slum landlord. He is a very violent and unconscionable man, an individual who for years has simply intimidated, threatened, and engaged in acts of arson, illegal evictions, and now, worst of all, a plot to kill two tenants in his apartment building.” Given the existence of so many different pieces of identification showing so many different addresses, even different vehicle registrations, she added, he had to be kept in jail: “The people are uncertain as to who the defendant really is.”

Glass and his partner, Elliot Kurlander, a childhood friend, hardly seemed to be driven by ambition. A yeshiva boy from Brighton Beach, where his father, a survivor of a Siberian labor camp, worked for Pechter’s Bakery, Glass had gone into real estate after receiving a master’s degree in child education from Long Island University. People always need buildings, his family said, so he and Kurlander found a cheap one on Ludlow and Stanton. (Kurlander, who has not been charged with any crime, refused to be interviewed for this story.)

“It was a backdoor play,” Glass told me in the counsel room at the Brooklyn Men’s House of Detention. His face was ashen, his voice softened to a whisper. “We took over a hardware store, and the owner eventually said the building had to come with it. He was basically giving it to us for free. I didn’t start off thinking I needed $1,000 a week to live; I started with modest aspirations. It’s not like a one-year boom of success with mortgages and borrowing and schemes to hike the rent and evict people. There are people who have nothing rents. They can’t pay more.”

It was the cheap rent that had drawn Glass’s tenants to Ludlow Street in the first place. Bordered on the north by Katz’s Deli on Houston Street and on the south by the projects hovering over Delancey Street, the area had been home to successive generations of Russian Jews, Italians, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans who settled there and eventually moved on. However, by the early eighties, the gentrification of the East Village and the tight rental market throughout the city had sent the young and hip scurrying into one of the last unhyped areas in Manhattan. Ludlow Street was cheap and convenient, and Glass was known as an easy touch. He didn’t ask for references or expensive deposits; all he wanted was the first and last month’s rent and a promise you’d pay reasonably on time. His apartments weren’t renovated, the common areas were often falling down, and Glass usually didn’t bother with written leases, but tenants who wanted to renovate merely had to ask, and he would allow them to deduct the cost of the materials (if not the labor) from their rent. For six years, I was one of them. In 1982, I moved into a black shell of an apartment, a classic railroad flat with a tub in the kitchen and rats in the wall, but by the time I left, I had a brightly painted apartment with a shower stall, thanks to Glass.

By 1990, Ludlow Street was developing a weird kind of reverse status. Kiki Smith, Izhar Patkin, Jim Casebere, Erika Beckman, Ellen Berkenblit, Joseph Nechvatal, and dozens of other artists lived and worked there, and the once-deserted blocks had started sprouting bars, restaurants, boutiques, and hot clubs.

Among the first of these pioneers was the millinery and dress shop of Amy Downs and Mary Adams, which opened on the corner of Stanton Street in 1986. Downs, a Minneapolis native who speaks with a Twin Cities twang, was a tenant in one of Glass’s buildings, struggling to get her hat business off the ground. One day, out of the blue, Glass suggested she take over the hardware store on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton. He would give her six months’ free rent and let her renovate the store any way she wanted. “I know it sounds corny,” she says, “but he really gave me a break in New York. He gave me my chance. He said, ‘I think you’re talented and hardworking, and I have a store. Do you want one?’ Somewhere down the line, I think he expected us to return his investment, and we did – but it wasn’t the money he was after. I think he thought it would be fun, and even fantasized about going into the fashion business.”

Indeed, whether it was about business or about the neighborhood girls, whom he would ogle and sometimes joke with about trading rent for sex, Glass often seemed to talk a big game. He may have been utterly committed to his family and to living an Orthodox Jewish life, but Ludlow Street’s seamy success had an undeniable pull on him. After Uli Rimkus, a German artist who was another tenant in one of his buildings, decided to start a bar in a vacant store up the block, Glass gave her four months’ free rent and various credit references. Max Fish soon became a big hit. “One day the Times reported that it was the hottest bar in town, and Mark came over and said, ‘You see this? I made this happen,’” remembers Gadi Gilan, the owner of an antiques store in one of Glass’s buildings on the south side of Houston Street between the Bowery and Elizabeth Street.

But Gilan also witnessed the results of Glass’s largesse firsthand when he started his own restaurant, Café Colonial, on the corner of Elizabeth and Houston. “Landlords are usually horrible,” he says. “If you’re a day late, they penalize you; if you need repairs, they won’t help. These guys gave you help if you needed it. It’s trust, the old Jewish way of doing business, like on 47th Street. You make a deal, say mazel and broche, shake hands, and it’s done.”

Not all of Glass’s tenants thought he was such a mensch. “Believe me,” says one who prefers not to be identified in print, “when he needed the rent, he’d let me know. He was threatening. I was scared of him.” She says that Glass often played favorites with tenants and could be intimidating if need be, especially with the elderly.

Brigitte Marx wasn’t scared of Glass – at least not at first. We meet at Baby Jake’s, a grungy Tex-Mex bar near Houston Street; she is wearing a crinkly black rayon overcoat over a black turtleneck sweater and brown velvet jeans. Her hair is stringy, her hands blotchy, and she never stops twisting her gold rings of snakes and cats. She says she knows she shouldn’t be talking to a reporter, but she is afraid Glass will smear her, even from behind bars.

Marx first came to New York from Berlin in 1984, just for a visit, but she soon fell in love with the Lower East Side. Over the next few years, she returned several times, periodically subletting an apartment on Ludlow Street and then living on Avenue D. In November 1993, Glass offered her an apartment at 42 Clinton for $500 a month. Marx thought that was expensive, but Glass was happy to help her renovate. “It was a dump,” she says with a slight German accent. “There was a hole in the ceiling, and I was afraid it would come down on me. I got a contractor friend to fix it, and also put a new floor in the bedroom. It was very peaceful. I did the work and they paid me for the paint and materials. Everything was fine.”

But then one of her friends told her to check the rent records, and, according to Marx, she discovered that the previous tenant had paid only $255 a month. “Here it was two years later and he was asking $500,” she says. She studied the law: On a rent-stabilized apartment, she says, Glass was only entitled to a 10 percent increase per year, and then only if the apartment was renovated. “I could accept if he was charging me $50 or $100 more, but $300? I felt taken advantage of. It was deceptive. So I filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Preservation. That was my big mistake. He came around all smiley, but I knew he hated my guts. As a compromise, he offered me a $390 rent and a written lease. I accepted it because I had already put a lot of work into the place, but I could see he hated me.”

Over the next year, Marx began to feel that Glass was ignoring her complaints, although she continued to pay her rent on time. She was particularly concerned about the lack of separation between her and the adjoining apartment, occupied by Bernell Crawford and his brother, Luis. When the building was constructed, the two apartments shared a front door at the end of the corridor connecting them. Marx wanted to replace the flimsy bedroom doors that separated the two apartments, but Glass dragged his feet. She was angry that she and Crawford shared an electric meter and that Glass’s workmen were slow fixing leaks that, she says, turned Crawford’s kitchen into a waterfall. (Crawford refused to comment for this article.) Finally, Marx began deducting money for her Con Ed bill and filed a formal request for rent reduction with the city.

Last February, says Marx, Crawford came back from staying at a girlfriend’s to find that his apartment had been burglarized, his mattress thrown on the street – and the locks changed. “What burglar takes the time to change the locks on the way out of an apartment?” she says. “It was so obviously the landlord.” Then, on March 13, she was working in TriBeCa when she heard from Glass’s office that Crawford’s apartment was on fire. “He made it sound like it was burning to the ground,” she says, starting to cry. “Mostly, I was afraid for my cat, Misery. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. When I got there, the firemen had hacked a hole in my ceiling, but my cat was okay. My apartment wasn’t damaged too badly – fireman damage instead of fire damage – but they had to smash the windows out of Bernell’s. It was a disaster. I told the fire marshal what happened, and he said they were sure it was arson. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was my apartment that got burglarized next.”

Marx was shocked when she came downstairs a week later to find an eviction notice addressed to her posted in plain view next to the building’s mailboxes. According to the letter from Glass’s lawyer Benjamin Kaplan, Marx’s apartment was being used “for illegal and immoral purposes. Drug dealers and drug users are going and coming into your apartment at all hours of the day of night sic, often when you are not home, and other persons have been seen entering the building with keys and going up to your apartment… . In addition, a recent fire which occurred in the building was initiated from your apartment and the tenants of the building fear for their safety as the result of ongoing drug activity in your apartment.”

Marx wrote back to Kaplan, saying that the charges against her were “based on malicious rumors and gossip… . The D.A. will confirm that I am no suspect or in any way related to the arson. Which tenants are accusing me? Certainly not my next-door neighbor.”

What Marx did not know was that a few days after the fire, nine of her neighbors – including Bernell Crawford – had filed a petition with Glass advocating “the eviction of the occupant of apartment 13 because ongoing activity associated with drugs – drug addiction – has convinced us that something must be done to insure the security of our homes.” Apparently, the tenants had been complaining about Marx’s erratic behavior for years. Some claimed that she often had heroin delivered to her apartment, and that on several occasions the door of the building had been kicked in by drug dealers who were angry she was not home. One neighbor, Casandra Mele, remembered an incident from two years ago in which Marx was in a violent fight with Bernell Crawford’s brother. “I live right below her,” she says, “so I could hear everything. One night, she had a fight with Luis in the hallway and squirted his door with blood from a hypodermic. It was some sort of weird psychosexual obsession.” Another neighbor, painter Ann Messner, recalls that “there just wasn’t normal behavior coming out of that person’s apartment. We all have examples of her behaving strangely.”

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.”

Indeed, for everything the D.A. says is a sign of his “multiple identities,” Glass has a ready explanation: The gold coins were religious tokens given to him for his pidyon haben, the symbolic fee devout Jews pay to free a first-born son from his priestly duties. Two of the guns were bought one summer while he was renting a bungalow upstate; the shotgun and pistol were found in the boiler room of one of his buildings. (“I didn’t know what to do with them,” he says.) His name is Avraham Weiss, which is the same as Abraham Weiss and was translated by his father as Alvin Marcus Weiss. Joseph Schliecher, the name on one of the bank statements found in his house, is a Holocaust survivor he takes care of at a nearby nursing home; Abe Thau is a recently deceased friend whose estate he was managing. At home, his friends and family switch easily between Mark and Alvin. Mark Glass, he says, was an amalgam of Mark (from Marcus) and the surname of a former partner, an Israeli named Moishe Glass, who had loaned him and Kurlander some money to buy 42 Clinton when they were first starting out. “The D.A. told things that are not lies – they’re worse than lies,” Glass says angrily, pulling on the seam of his gray prison overalls. “They could have told the truth. There was every opportunity to tell the truth.”

If anyone’s character should be under the spotlight, says Martin Adelman, it is Eddie Almestica’s. “It’s a sham of a farce of a mockery,” he says. “If Eddie was already working for the state, he shouldn’t have set that fire. And once he did, he shouldn’t have been allowed to go free. Since when have you ever heard of a convicted felon being allowed to get away with an arson without even being charged?” Adelman wonders whether there are ties between Marx and Almestica, a junkie and a dealer: Perhaps they wanted Crawford’s apartment for themselves? For her part, Marx denies knowing either Eddie or Peewee. “Eddie is an angel,” she says. “He could have killed me. Some people would have done it for a lot less.”

In the meantime, Mark Glass – or Alvin Weiss – sits in prison without bail, denying the charges against him but resigned to his trials. “My family – my parents, my grandparents, my wife’s parents – they all went through the worst experiences of history,” he says. “There were acts of kindness given to them, so I feel if I can manage, it’s enough. It will work itself out.” And then he is taken back to his cell, as far from Manhattan Beach as it is from Ludlow Street.

The Double Life of a Ludlow Street Landlord