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Landlord Accused Of Fighting Rent-Stabilized Tenants Now Claims He's A Rent-Stabilized Tenant

A stock photo search result for "bad landlord," which more or less sums the whole thing up.
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A stock photo search result for "bad landlord," which more or less sums the whole thing up. max-kegfire via istockphoto

Raphael Toledano, the notorious East Village landlord who allegedly tried to give rent-stabilized tenants fruit baskets and ice cream instead of gas and hot water, subjected them to work that left toxic lead dust everywhere and reportedly used other harassment techniques in an attempt to get them to leave their homes is now seeking shelter under those same tenant protections in an attempt to keep his Upper West Side apartment. We live in a Hell dimension.

According to a court filing obtained by The Real Deal, Toledano is claiming that he doesn't have to leave his $13,800/month apartment at 393 West End Avenue on the Upper West Side even though his lease is up, because the lease has a 421a rider that entitles him to a rent-stabilized lease.

In addition to claiming his lease has a 421a rider, Toledano contends that a previous landlord didn't properly account for $20,000 in apartment improvements that moved the rent on his unit over the then-$2,000 per month threshold to take it out of the rent-stabilization program (the current vacancy decontrol threshold is $2,700).

Toledano is also asking for $315,000 in rent overcharges, damages and court fees. He's represented by an attorney with Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, LLP, whose founding partner Sherwin Belkin made his fortune "emptying [buildings] of modestly-situated tenants so that they might be replaced with higher earning—and paying—occupants," the Observer reported in 2014. The Real Deal also reports that if his claim is found to have merit, he could see his rent go down by over $11,000 per month.

However, city records don't show any property tax exemptions for 393 West End Avenue, much less a 421a exemption. In addition, The Real Deal notes that while there are a number of rent-stabilized units in the building, the one where Toledano lives doesn't appear to be covered by the program.

Toledano's attorney did not respond to a request for comment. Numbers listed for Toledano on his website have been disconnected.

Toledano's attempts to get rich quick in the East Village eventually fell apart after he reportedly overleveraged himself while buying up a number of buildings, and also failed to pay multiple tenants the buyouts that he promised them.

"I'm sure he has a rent-stabilized apartment that should only cost $2000 a month," deadpanned Jim Markowich of the Toledano Tenants Coalition, a group of East Village tenants who have organized against Toledano's alleged harassment. "The story gave us all a good laugh at least," he told Gothamist.

On his website, Toledano writes that "the desire to contribute to the greater good of his community are the values that drive Raphael Toledano in everything he does."

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