We've seen $1,000/month rent-stabilized Upper West Side apartments; we know it's possible to get $400/month rent-stabilized apartments if you don't mind living in an SRO; we've even seen $331.76/month four-bedroom Village apartments. But never in our lives have we heard of this: a man pays $55.01/month for a one-bedroom at 5 Spring Street in SoHo. And his neighbor pays $71.23/month for his one-bedroom apartment. And of course, neither will be giving them up anytime soon.
Thomas Lombardi is the lucky man who lives in the $55/month apartment—it's the same one where he grew up after his family emigrated from Italy in the 1940s. “That’s the lowest rent I’ve ever heard of,” Frank Ricci, director of government affairs at the Rent Stabilization Association, told the Post. Lombardi, who is in his 70s, lives there with "his much younger wife," who stands to inherit the apartment after he dies. For some perspective: a real estate appraiser told them Lombardi's apartment would get at least $2,500 a month on the open market.
Retired military meteorologist and published poet Tom Combs is the owner of the $71/month apartment in the same building, which he has lived in since 1967. He says that landlord Robert Cohen unsuccessfully tried to evict him in January for “maintaining [the apartment] in an extremely poor and unhygienic condition.” Combs, 87, now lives off an Air Force pension of $1,100 a month, along with extra money he makes from nude modeling: “They tell me I’m so good at it, I feel I have a duty to do it.” As for what'll happen to his apartment after he dies, Combs is considering getting married to a 41-year-old former lover from Nepal who is seeking political asylum in the United States, now that gay marriage is legal in NY.
According to the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal, neither Combs nor Lombardi's rents can be increased while they (or their relatives) own it: because the landlord at the building never filed paperwork to increase rents, they'll be frozen at these insanely low prices for the time being. Cohen is losing money because of it too: “If a landlord in Manhattan doesn’t get at least $1,000 a month [on a unit], he’s losing money,” said Ricci. Perhaps Cohen may have to turn to more sordid methods to try to drive out his tenants.