A New Mexico legislator turned playwright is suing his New York City building manager over what he says was a bait-and-switch that left him living over the Lincoln Tunnel and dealing with nearly nonstop noise from inside and outside his apartment.
Former state senator Joseph Carraro has been back and forth to the big city since last year, he said, working on a play called Conversations with an Average Joe, a populist paean to the working person beaten down by an unfeeling corporate and political elite. In late May, after a short run off-Broadway, he decided to move to New York full-time in pursuit of the big-time. He settled on a one-bedroom apartment in Riverbank West, a high-end high-rise on 43rd Street at 11th Avenue, with one month in an un-fixed-up studio as a stopgap until work on the other unit wrapped up in July.
Carraro says he arranged this deal with a broker, but when he arrived from New Mexico with all his belongings at the beginning of June, he was told the studio had already been rented, and he'd have to settle for a $3,375-a-month one-bedroom on the other side of the building. He agreed, putting down the money and signing a lease the same day. Unbeknownst to him, the apartment was facing 42nd Street, and two blocks beyond, the incessant traffic of the tunnel entrance.
The sirens of emergency vehicles kept him up into the early morning, he said. The building is two doors down from the FDNY Rescue Company 1 firehouse. Worse, he said, was the bone-rattling noise of renovations in apartments on his floor, beginning at 8 a.m. each day, and lasting till 5.
"Now here I am doing another thing to do with corporate corruption and the average Joe," he said. He called his neighbors, caught up in leases and purportedly sharing his concerns, "like hostages."
Carraro says he told management the first day that he wanted to break his lease, and alleges that they hadn't even signed it at that point, and did so after he'd made his displeasure clear. What followed, according to his account, was a nerve-wracking month in which his blood pressure spiked, his script-writing and cast meetings ground to a halt, and all his efforts to negotiate an exit failed.
"I was getting probably three hours of sleep, if I slept at all," he said.
Carraro's troubles culminated with a nasty fall in the building steam room last week that sent him packing back to New Mexico, just after he sued building manager George Laitsas in state Supreme Court.
"I didn’t run away from a lease," he said. "I left to protect myself."
The crux of his case isn't that he was living next to the Lincoln Tunnel, as the New York Post put it, he said. Rather, "It was fraud."
He explained, "They rented me this apartment with the knowledge that the noise inside is going to happen. You can’t really sue somebody because there’s noise outside."
Asked how he'd answer the jaded New Yorker whose response to this situation is saying that he should have done more research, Carraro said, "My due diligence was staying in hotels for eight months all around the city, knowing where the good places were, where the bad places were. That was my due diligence."
He continued, "I write laws. I understand the law. I understand my responsibility. If I walked in and said there’s horns beeping, there’s sirens, I know what’s going on. I’ve lived in New York for all this time in hotels. I didn’t know I was looking at the Lincoln Tunnel. I had no idea. You couldn’t see the street [from his high floor]. I had no idea the building took up the whole block. Most buildings I looked at took up half a block."
The 44-story building has been the subject of 91 311 complaints since 2010, 32 of them noise-related, according to city records.
Laitsas, the building manager, did not respond to calls seeking comment.