By Valerie Castro
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Traditional keys are being replaced with a new key fob system at a building in upper Manhattan, and one city leader says it’s an illegal way to force tenants out.
It’s out with the old and in with the new for the building on Riverside Drive. Tenants say they were notified by management through letters that the lobby door will soon only be operated by an electronic key fob system.
The problem, according to some tenants, is in the letters fine print which reads, “Fobs will only be given to those who are signed on the lease.”
In Kazu Hano’s case, even though he and his wife have lived in the building for more than 50 years, only his name is on the lease.
“He said ‘you have to show a marriage certificate’,” Hano said. “We have one, but they said ‘you gotta make a copy and send it to management’ and they’ll decide whether to give me a key.”
Even if the application is approved, tenants say they’re being charged a $50 security deposit. It’s a big problem for families with children, and tenants who rely on home health aides like Fred Armstrong.
“I don’t feel great because it’s just another thing I have to worry about,” he said.
Tenants say they’ve also been asked to sign a form that appears to be a lease amendment.
“The rules are clear,” City Councilman Mark Levine (D-7th) said. “There must be two fobs for apartments, and the landlord cannot charge for them.”
Levine says such a charge would be an illegal addition to rent.
“Unfortunately it’s not unique,” he said. “It’s part of the playbook of landlords who are trying to push people out.”
CBS2 reached out to JK Management Corporation, the landlord for the building.
A day after this story aired and after repeated requests for an interview, they sent a statement to CBS New York saying in part several tenants have informed them of attempted break ins to the building and the key fob system will address those security concerns. It will also help prevent illegal Airbnb rentals.
The company says it is prepared to add additional tenants to lease agreements to get them a key fob at no extra charge.
As for the claim that the building needs more security in the first place, the local NYPD precinct says only two crimes have been reported in the area so far in 2018.
Levine’s office says they’re connecting tenants with legal experts to fight the alleged harassment.